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Extreme Oil
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The Journey The History The Science

Lesson Plan 1: Exploring the History of Oil




Building Background:

1) Ask your students how they arrived at school today. Did they take a bus? A car? Did they walk? (Student answers will vary.) Ask your students what the primary means of transportation is in your community. (Student answers will vary.) Ask your students what they think the most common means of transportation is in the United States. (Student answers will vary; guide students to realize that the most common transportation in the United States is the automobile.) Ask your students what makes a car run. What fuel does it require? (A car requires gasoline to run.) Ask your students if they can tell you from where gasoline comes? What is it? (Gasoline is a product of petroleum, or oil. It is a refined by-product of the crude oil that comes from the ground.) Ask your students to brainstorm other ways human beings utilize oil. Aside from fueling our cars, how else do we put petroleum to use? (Accept all student answers; do not provide any additional information or suggestions at this time. Write student answers on the chalkboard or whiteboard.)

2) Ask your students how long they think humans have been putting oil to use. Were people using oil before the invention of cars? If so, how? (Accept all student answers; do not provide any additional information or suggestions at this time.) Explain to your students that in this lesson, you will be examining the history of oil, and the different uses human beings have had for it over the centuries.

3) Distribute the "Oil Change: Petroleum's Role Through History" to your students. Divide your students into four groups. Assign the first group the time period from prehistory until the Revolutionary War. Assign the second group the time period from 1792 to 1903. Assign the third group the time period from 1911 to 1951. Assign the fourth group the time period from 1960 to the present day.

4) Ask your students to log on to the Extreme Oil: Oil History Timeline at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/extremeoil/history. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to examine their group's assigned time period on the timeline, and to record information about oil's history during that time period on their "Oil Change" handout. Within each group, students should also determine the three most interesting or important facts related to their time period. Allow your students 15-20 minutes to complete this activity. Check for student comprehension. Ask your students to revisit the list of petroleum-related products from the beginning of the lesson. Is there any information from the Web site that they can add to the list of petroleum-related products? (Student answers will vary; add additional information to the list, and leave the list on the chalkboard or whiteboard.)

5) Ask your students if humans' use of oil is limited to modern times. (No. Human beings have been utilizing petroleum for thousands of years ... just not quite the same way we use it today.) Based on the information in the timeline, where can oil be found on the planet? (Oil can be found all over the planet. The timeline references locations in the Middle East, Asia, North America, and elsewhere.) Draw a long horizontal line on your chalkboard or whiteboard. Label the left end of the line "Pre-history" and the right end of the line "Today." Ask one student from each of the four groups to come up to the board and list the three most interesting or important facts from their assigned time period on the timeline. Once each group has included their information on the timeline, ask each group, chronologically, to share their information about the history of oil.

6) Ask your students if, based on the information from the Web site, there have been benefits to human use of petroleum. If so, what are they? (Student answers will vary.) Ask your students if, based on the information from the Web site, there have been drawbacks to human use of petroleum. If so, what are they? (Student answers will vary.)

7) Explain to your students that they will now be taking a more in-depth look at how petroleum has impacted our lives.





1) Tell your students that during the past 150 years especially, petroleum and petroleum-based products have greatly changed people's lives. Reference the timeline your class created on the board to underscore this fact. Explain to your students that in modern life, the oil industry's impact is everywhere. Tell your students that they will now be examining specific contributions of the oil industry in the home, in industry, in medicine, and in transportation over the course of the last 150 years.

2) Divide your students into four groups (you may wish to use the same groups from the Introductory Activity). Assign one of the following topics to each of the groups: Home, Work, Medical, and Transportation. Ask your students to log on to the American Petroleum Institute Web site at http://www.classroom-energy.org/students/energy/, and scroll down the page until they see the "Progress through Petroleum" interactivity. Students should click on the "play" icon near the "Progress through Petroleum" interactivity. Explain to your students that this interactivity consists of a matrix of information. The columns across the top of the matrix list different topics. The rows down the side of the matrix list different time periods. By clicking in each of the boxes in the matrix, you will get information about each topic during a particular time period.

3) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to use the matrix to examine how petroleum has impacted their assigned topic over the past 150 years. After reading the information on the Web site, students should write a 5-7 sentence paragraph summarizing how petroleum has impacted their assigned topic on their "Oil Change" handout, and be prepared to share their information with other students. Give your students 15-20 minutes to complete this task.

4) Once students have finished gathering the information from the Web site, ask them to form new groups of four students, with representatives from each of the four assigned topics (i.e., one member from the home group, one member from the work group, one member from the medical group, and one member from the transportation group). Ask students in each group to share their information about petroleum's impact on their assigned topic over the last 150 years with each other. Students should compile notes and information on their classmates' topics in the space provided on their "Oil Change" handout. Give your students 15-20 minutes to complete this task.

5) Ask your students if they happened to notice who put up the "Progress Through Petroleum" Web site. (Student answers will vary.) Tell your students that the site is managed by the American Petroleum Institute (API). API is the U.S. oil and natural gas trade association. API's mission is "to influence public policy in support of a strong, viable U.S. oil and natural gas industry essential to meet the energy needs of consumers in an efficient, environmentally responsible manner." The site is paid for by oil companies. Ask your students if there was anything negative about the oil industry on the "Progress Through Petroleum" Web site. (There wasn't anything too negative on the Web site). Why do your students think that API didn't put too much negative information on the Web site? (Student answers will vary.) Ask your students why oil companies and oil can be such a controversial topic. (Student answers will vary; guide students to realize that there are a number of environmental and political concerns associated with the oil industry.) Remind students of the drawbacks to the use of petroleum that they came up with at the end of the Introductory Activity.

6) Tell your students that they will now be taking a look at some video clips so that they can more fully understand some of the drawbacks and problems associated with the oil industry, and form an opinion about a current issue facing the oil industry.

7) Insert Extreme Oil Episode 2 "The Curse of Oil" into your VCR. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine what the effects are of a poorly-managed oil industry enterprise in Ecuador. PLAY the video when you see a lower-income urban neighborhood in Ecuador, and you hear the male narrator say, "Petro Ecuador was also supposed to have cleaned up a number of Texaco's old oil pits." STOP the tape when you see a scientist putting a flask of amber liquid onto a counter, and you hear the male narrator say," that were forty million times greater than is allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.A." Check for student comprehension, and ask your students what the effects are of the poorly-managed oil enterprise in Ecuador. (An oil pit belonging to Texaco now belongs to another company, Petro Ecuador. This company was supposed to clean up some of the oil pits; they have done a totally ineffectual job. The water in the pits is tainted with crude oil, it is extremely polluted, and the native population that bathes in the water is getting sick and having skin problems. The levels of the pollution in the water are off the charts according to the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency.)

8) Explain to your students that recently, there has been a lot of debate and controversy surrounding the expansion of the oil industry into protected lands in Alaska. Insert Extreme Oil Episode 3 "The Wilderness" into your VCR. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine why environmentalists fear the consequences of expanding oil drilling into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. PLAY the video when you see the BP facility through the truck windshield, and you hear a male voice say, "Oil companies are really caught between two fires." PAUSE the video when you see and orange sunset over snowy mountains from a plane window, and you hear the male narrator say, " ... oil-rich coastlines off New England and California could be next." Check for student comprehension, and ask your students why environmentalists fear the expansion of oil drilling into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Environmentalists fear that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is simply the "thin end of the wedge," and that drilling in other protected lands, such as Yellowstone National Park and the Everglades, will soon follow.) Remind your students that the spokesman referred to oil companies as "being between two fires." Ask your students what that expression means in this case. (On one hand, oil companies are responsible for the enormous task of extracting the oil that is used for fueling our cars and heating our homes. On the other hand, environmentalists are putting pressure on oil companies to make them cleaner and safer; these expectations are not always wholly reasonable when considering the oil companies' task.)

9) Tell you students that despite some problems, such as those they saw in Ecuador, the oil industry can positively impact people's lives in oil-rich areas. FAST FORWARD the video until you see a pilot in a cockpit of a plane above the Alaskan wilderness, and you hear the narrator say, "Leaving Dead Horse behind us." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking your students to determine how the Alaskan oil industry has impacted the lives of people in Kaktovik, and how they feel about the expansion of the oil industry into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. PLAY the video. PAUSE the video when you see polar bears, and you hear the male narrator say, "Yet it's Washington that will determine the future of this place, and the people who live here." Check for student comprehension, and ask your students how the Alaskan oil industry has impacted the lives of people in Kaktovik, and how they feel about the expansion of the oil industry into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (The Alaskan Oil Industry has greatly improved the lives of people in Kaktovik. As a result of oil money, the town is no longer a "third world" community. The town has electricity, running water, flushing toilets, fire trucks, etc. People in the town were reluctant to discuss their opinions about the expansion of the oil industry into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; however, the town Fire Chief is very supportive of the idea. He knows there's a market for the oil and that the expansion of the industry could improve and enhance the lives of people in the town.)

10) Explain to your students that some Alaskan natives are opposed to the expansion of the oil industry into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. FAST FORWARD the video you see a map of Alaska with the Arctic Circle labeled, and a propeller in the lower-right hand corner of the screen. You will hear the narrator say, "Back in Alaska, we flew over the Arctic Circle to a small native community known as Arctic Village." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine why the citizens of Arctic Village are concerned about the possible expansion of the oil industry onto the Refuge. PLAY the video. STOP the video when you see the wing of a plane and clouds at dusk, and you hear the narrator say, "In the U.S. so far, opposition has blocked oil companies from developing Alaska's Arctic Refuge." Check for student comprehension, and ask your students why the people in Arctic Village are concerned about the expansion of the oil industry. (The people in Arctic Village are extremely dependent on the environment for their survival. Their diet consists of things they can hunt or gather from the land. They are extremely concerned about how the expansion of oil drilling will impact the environment, particularly the caribou population. Finally, they are very proud of their land's beauty, solitude, and isolation.)

11) Divide your students into three groups. Assign each group one of the following topics: Technology and Environment, Economics, or Politics. Ask the "Technology and Environment" group to log on to the Extreme Oil Web site at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/extremeoil/journey/alaska.html. Ask the Economics group to log onto the Extreme Oil Web site at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/extremeoil/journey/alaska2.html. Ask the Politics group to log on to the Extreme Oil Web site at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/extremeoil/journey/alaska3.html. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine how oil has proven to be consistently controversial in Alaskan history. Allow your students ten minutes to complete this task. Check for student comprehension, and ask each group to report how oil has proven to be consistently controversial in different facets of Alaskan history. (Student answers will vary.)



Culminating Activity:

1) Remind your students that they now have an understanding of the enormous impact that the petroleum industry has had throughout history, and continues to have on our everyday lives. Re-visit the brainstorming list you have created about petroleum's uses. Expand the list to include any additional information your students gathered throughout the lesson. Ask your students if there are, in fact, benefits to the work of the oil industry. (Absolutely. The oil industry provides much beyond simply fuel for cars. Its contributions enhance many different areas of modern life, from transportation and medicine to industry and entertainment.)

2) Ask your students to review some of the drawbacks of the oil industry covered in the lesson. (The oil industry can have an extremely negative impact on the environment, causing pollution, endangering wildlife, and impacting ecosystems and the people who depend upon them.)

3) Tell your students that they now have an opportunity to make an informed decision about whether or not they support the expansion of the oil industry into Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Instruct your students to write a letter to your local Congressional representative, either advocating the expansion or opposing it. Students should cite specific information from the lesson in their letters.

Students advocating the expansion may choose to include information in their letters regarding how petroleum-based products have enhanced and improved the quality of our lives, how the oil industry has positively impacted the lives of native peoples in Alaska, and their understanding of the oil industry as they now perceive it.

Students opposing the expansion may choose to include information in their letters regarding the repercussions of poorly-managed oil industry enterprises, the possible negative impact on the lives on native peoples in Alaska, and their understanding of the oil industry as they now perceive it.

4) As an assessment of the lesson, collect and analyze student letters. Depending on the quality of the letters your students create, you may want to send the letters to your local Congressional representative.





SOCIAL STUDIES
Research the events that led up to the mid 1970s energy crisis. Write an essay comparing and contrasting these events with current events.

Locate Kaktovik and Arctic Village, Alaska on a map or globe. Research the people, wildlife, and climate of each town.

SCIENCE
Research the long-term environmental impact of the Exxon Valdez disaster on the ecology of Alaska's Prince William Sound, as well as the current technology used in combating oil spills.

Learn more about the process of extracting oil from the ground. Consider investigating the other Extreme Oil lesson plan, available here.

MATH
Research and graph the number of automobiles in the United States from 1900 to the present, as well as yearly U.S. oil consumption for the same period.



Community Connections:

  • Visit your local electrical company to determine how electricity is generated for your community.

  • Interview older friends or relatives about the technological advances during their lifetimes which they feel had the most impact. Are these advances related to petroleum industry? If so, how?

  • Invite a hybrid car dealer into your classroom to describe how these alternate forms of transportation function, as well as their benefits and drawbacks.

  • Contact a local environmental organization and research ecological concerns facing your community.


Online Resources:

Extreme Oil: Oil History Timeline
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/extremeoil/history/index.html
This Web site, which accompanies the PBS series Extreme Oil, provides a history of humans' use of oil from prehistory to the present.

Progress Through Petroleum
http://www.classroom-energy.org/students/energy
This Web site, from the American Petroleum Institute, provides a number of interactivities for students focused on energy and oil. The "Progress Through Petroleum" interactivity details how petroleum-based products and technologies have dramatically improved the quality of our lives. This site requires the Flash plug-in, available online at http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/
download.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash
&P5_Language=English
.

Extreme Oil: Alaska Technology and Environment
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/extremeoil/journey/alaska.html
This Web site, which accompanies the PBS series EXTREME OIL, provides an overview of the oil industry's impact on Alaska's environment.

Extreme Oil: Alaska Economics
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/extremeoil/journey/alaska2.html
This Web site, which accompanies the PBS series EXTREME OIL, provides an overview of the oil industry's economic history in Alaska.

Extreme Oil: Alaska Politics
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/extremeoil/journey/alaska3.html
This Web site, which accompanies the PBS series EXTREME OIL, provides an overview of the oil industry's political history in Alaska.


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