Tour Helps Teachers Apply Lessons On Oil

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, demonstrates what frac sand looks like to a group of teachers who toured oil well sites on Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in Mountrail County. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

NEW TOWN, N.D. – The next time Rita West’s math students ask how they will ever use geometry, she’ll have a real-world answer from North Dakota’s Oil Patch.

The teacher from Red River High School in Grand Forks and about 40 other teachers from around the state are attending a North Dakota Petroleum Council training seminar this week.

“The primary goal is to send the teachers with lessons about how math and science are applicable right here in North Dakota,” said Ron Ness, president of the Petroleum Council, a trade association.

For West, one lesson she’ll bring back to her students is that geometry is important for calculating volumes of oil.

The teachers toured oil well sites in Mountrail County on Tuesday to learn about horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing up close. They also heard from oil industry representatives during classroom sessions at the offices of Whiting Oil and Gas.

Mindy Johnson, who teaches physical science at West Fargo’s Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center, said it was helpful to learn about the oil industry careers that require a college education.

West Fargo English teacher Mary Conant, who teaches at the same school, said the oil industry may be a subject that her students will want to research.

“It’s kind of neat to find some new and local topics they can look into,” Conant said.

Representatives from the Delegation of the European Union to the United States also participated in Tuesday’s tour to learn more about the potential of shale development.

“We are stunned,” said Thomas Stoelzl, an economic counselor from the Embassy of Austria. “The technical process is so exciting. It’s fascinating.”

The four-day seminar, which began Monday, also includes educational courses in Bismarck. Today’s session will feature a tour of the Tesoro Refinery in Mandan.

This is the 26th year of the teacher education seminar, said Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, who also led some of the classes. By training the teachers, the group can reach students all across North Dakota, Helms said.

“We are excited about trying to reach grade school kids primarily to talk to them about career opportunities in the oil and gas industry,” Helms said.