In Colorado, students are learning about fossil fuels at the source, and studying the environmental impact literally in their backyard.
Science teacher Tori Hellmann simulated an experiment to demonstrate fracking at Palisade High School, located just 30 miles away from a natural gas processing facility by Parachute, Colorado. Using a horse catheter, she injected plaster of Paris through the catheter into a plastic bottle of gelatin. She blew the gelatin apart.
“So it kind of simulates the idea of fracking,” says Hellmann. “Not exactly, but it kind of gets the image across to the students so they can see that by using a fluid in a solid, you can get it to actually crack.”
Hellman took a course last summer developed by the University of Colorado’s AirWaterGas project. The intent was to enable teachers to teach students about fossil fuel impace, and is funded by the National Science Foundation. Lisa Gardiner is a specialist in teacher training with AirWaterGas.
“The reason that we’re gearing the course toward communities that have a lot of oil and gas development is that this is a great opportunity for place-based science education and that it can make science and engineering real and relevant to students,” she says.