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Summer Classes Give Northern Colorado Teachers Insight Into Oil & Gas

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) - Tucked away on the edge of Greeley is the Poudre Learning Center. Four neighboring school districts operate the center.

Anadarko Energy Institute
(credit: CBS)

"The Poudre Learning Center is 200 acres of native prairie. It has the Poudre River running through it, it has the Poudre Trail on the south side," said Ray Tschillard, the center's director.

Every year, 30,000 school kids make the trip to the center to enhance their classroom lessons but for two weeks in the summer, their teachers are the student.

The center has teamed up with energy companies to teach educators about the oil and gas industry that's so prevalent in their communities.

In fact, the center made the pitch for the energy institute to the companies, telling them a class could make a real impact.

"What's lasting is to an immersion, a workshop and not try to convince the teachers that oil and gas is the way to go but build an understanding of the energy industry," Tschillard explained.

Anadarko teamed up with SCR and Noble Energy to bring the energy institute to life.

"We've had conversations with teachers in the past who have said they don't always have the opportunity to teach about the energy development because they don't have the tools and resources they need," said Amanda Gash, the Manager of Social Investment for Anadarko.

Anadarko Energy Institute
(credit: CBS)

Andarko's senior staff geologist Jarrad Berg stepped out from behind his computer to share his knowledge of rocks and formations with about a dozen elementary school teachers the day CBS4 visited the Poudre Learning Center.

Typically he spends his day looking for oil and gas in new places in Colorado and Wyoming but he was happy for this change of pace.

"It's important for the teachers to know what we do so they can pass it on to the kids," he said. "Kids are the future. They're the ones who will be taking this to the next step."

It's that look to the future that inspired one of those teachers. Sam Schleiger teaches fifth grade at Milliken Elementary School. A number of his students have parents who work in the oil and gas industry, but he was eager to learn more about the science behind it. Even after a few hours, he already had a different appreciation for that science, learning how microorganisms are key to turning dinosaurs into oil.

But it's the inspiration he can take back to the classroom that has him the most excited.

"There might be a scientist in my classroom that I don't even know," Schleiger said. "So if I can give them knowledge, ideas and creativity, there might be a scientist in the future I don't even know about."

Schleiger says he would definitely recommend the class not only for the knowledge because it's a chance to get up close to the industry right in northern Colorado.

Berg said those lessons are just part of educating everyone about the oil and gas industry from its emphasis on safety to its local impact.

"We are doing things safely. We are doing things correctly. The oil and gas that we're getting out of the ground gets used right here in the community. Some of the gas is burned in the homes adjacent to the wells."


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