Back in February people were hypothetically talking about $4 a gallon gasoline. Now with my corner gas station at $4.39, there is talk about $5.00 gas by the end of July. Crazy stuff. Who knows when it will all return to normal, or at least to the new normal – you know $3.75 or so.
Well, people have been talking about peak oil (when production of oil peaks and then starts to decline) for years. I had a friend in grad school who moved to Portland, Oregon in part because that city is one of the few in the United States that is preparing for an oil shortage. And a year ago a grant funded by PBS (and others) allowed a group of people to create an alternative reality game called World Without Oil. Essentially, each day in May 2007 represented a week in a World Without Oil. Almost 2000 people from around the world posted blogs, podcasts, and videos in response to the fictional crisis. The turnout was amazing and links to all of the posts are still housed on the WWO web site. Earlier in the year it won the award for Activism at the South by Southwest Conference. It was also nominate for several other awards.
I was lucky enough to be hired to help develop a series of lesson plans that incorporated the main themes of the game. Working closely with one of the main WWO game designers (Ken Uklund), we produced ten modular lessons that teachers can use to recreate the game in their classrooms. We hope that teachers across multiple disciplines will incorporate these lessons and the bigger ideas they represent regarding the future of our nation and the world.
I was able to do about five days worth of the lessons (or at least the main concepts) with my college prep world history students at the end of the school year – literally it was the last days before the final exam. These two classes of 15-16 year-olds, really had no idea that how deeply we rely upon oil and how many products are actually derived from oil itself or energy produced by oil. These lessons gave them some greater insight. A number of my students did blogs which can be found on my WWO-specific web site. Some of the students really bought in to the game and produced some great posts. I hope to have a little more time next year to do it.
It seems like we as teachers need at least give some awareness to the issues immediately facing our students. My awareness to the issue of energy consumption has certainly broadened. Here is an article the was recently published at Education Week in the Digital Directions section. I am quoted! So read it.