College hosts annual event that allows kids to learn about oil and gas industry from locals in the field

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FARMINGTON — Students throughout the Four Corners region got a crash course in the energy industry during the 14th annual Energy Week at San Juan College last month.

The college partners with several local energy companies and groups each year to bring students — mostly eighth-grade students from as close as Farmington and as far as Gallup — to the School of Energy to learn about what the energy industry means to modern society and what regional companies do. Energy Week ran from May 3 through 11.

George Sharpe of Merrion Oil and Gas Co., who organizes the events, said the educational week has been held for 14 years, though this is the second year in the college’s School of Energy, which opened in 2015. Past Energy Week events were held in the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

Energy Week’s 2018 partners include BP, Diamond Derrick Engineering, Desk and Derrick Club of Farmington, Dugan Production Corp., Enduring Resources, Energy Operating Co., Hilcorp, LOGOS Resources, Navajo Transitional Energy Co. and Whiptail Midstream, Sharpe said.

Energy Week partners host students in a several-hour field trip to the college. Students learned about the history and relevance of the energy industry, as well as its impact on daily life in the U.S., before splitting into groups and touring small stations.

At the stations, students explored regional geology, refinery and well site operations, reservoir engineering and petroleum geology.

A popular station among students was a scavenger hunt in the Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology in the School of Energy’s lobby, which included a hands-on gem and mineral display hosted by the San Juan County Gem and Mineral Society that allowed students to take a sample home.

Navajo Preparatory School freshman Mikayla Begay, who participated in Energy Week events on May 11, said the scavenger hunt was her favorite part of the day.

“The scavenger hunt and the reward — just kidding,” Begay said when asked of the most interesting station. “I just got more information about the (museum and geology) here."

The event not only allows students to get out of the classroom to learn about one of the region’s traditional primary economic drivers, but also affords schools the chance to see subject matter working in real life, Kirtland Middle School math teacher Shira Isaacson said.

“This is total science, and we get to connect math and science together, so this is a great way for them to actually see science and math working together,” Isaacson said on May 7. “They actually get to see careers involved in those STEM fields."

Energy Week also serves as a venue to connect young students with the college early in their education. Monday’s opening presentation featured a short presentation by San Juan College’s Enrollment Services Coordinator Abby Calcote about the college’s dual enrollment program, which allows high school students to earn both high school and college credits for taking college courses in high school.

Todd Doyle, the School of Energy’s industrial process operator program and industrial maintenance mechanics coordinator who helped facilitate the events and ran the refinery station, said Energy Week also gives college faculty the chance to connect with field professionals to better train their students and prepare them to enter the workforce.

“We’re trying to get our students into their companies, and on the flip side, they know what’s going on out there and they’re telling us what they need (and) what kind of training they’re looking for, so you get some of that talking,” Doyle said on May 11.

Dugan Production Corp. Production Engineer Kevin Smaka, who helped host May 7’s Energy Week events with Kirtland Middle School students, said the events are a good venue to network within the regional industry.

The events also give players in the Four Corners energy industry the opportunity to reach kids and “get our message out there about what we really do, what is really going on in the oil field and how we are helping not only supply the energy demands of our country, but also doing it responsibly and environmentally friendly.”

San Juan College will also host similar events through the Summer Energy Camp in July.

The camp, which is free but requires registration for students between 12 and 15 years old, runs July 16 through 20 at the School of Energy, according to information from college spokeswoman Lucy Haber. The camp will be led by Hermosa Middle School science teacher Amy Durphy and will include hands-on learning and field trips regarding the science of petroleum, natural gas and other energy sources.

Contact San Juan College’s Community Learning Center for more information or to register.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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