Museum of the Southwest offering new learning unit

·3 min read

Aug. 5—MIDLAND — Most people understand how important the oil industry is to West Texas.

But some students may not know just how crucial oil can be in their daily lives.

A new learning unit at the Museum of the Southwest will help to change that.

From now through the end of September, the Museum of the Southwest will be hosting the Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit.

Plenty of children in the Permian Basin may have parents that work in the oil field but may not understand what exactly their jobs are.

Executive Director of the Museum of the Southwest Lori Wesley hopes the learning unit can help students better understand oil.

"I think the biggest bonus for us, especially if your parents work in the oil field, then you hear all these words," Wesley said. "You may understand what your parents do but this learning unit gives you the overview of what everybody does. It's really amazing."

Run by the Oilfield Energy Center, the unit offers 24 different stations that help teach children science, technology and careers that are related to the oil and the natural gas industry through various hands-on activities.

The unit includes a robotic arm which a museum attendee can use to try and pick up foam balls. Another part of the unit includes looking at microorganisms that make oil.

Children also learn about the different careers from working in oil.

"You learn about all kind of careers in engineering and safety and drilling and hydraulic fracturing and distillation and all those big words that you hear about in science," Wesley said. "But these aren't scary words. They're fun. Each one is its own station and has something to do. For example: geologists can use different temperatures to tell what kind of rock it is. We have a heat sensor that you put your hand on and you can see how hot your hand is. Once a child does that then the rest of the words you just said means so much more. The learning experience is more complete."

Wesley talked about other features in the exhibition.

"We have black lights that you can see the rocks glow. We also have 3D glasses so you can look into the Gulf of Mexico and see the depths for that. We have drill bits so you can see what they look like and how they work. There's a whole station on fracturing which is important in our world. I think the most interesting thing is that we have a station that says 'What products are made from oil?' It has things like crayons, Barbies and cups and shirts and all those are made from oil. That's been a good experience. Kids learn that it's not just gas."

The exhibit is sponsored by Coterra Energy.

The exhibit is currently on location in the Brown Science Center Classroom in the Blakemore Planetarium and is suited for grades 5-8 even though Wesley said it can be fun for the whole family.

"Most of the feedback has been from the parents," Wesley said. "They're like 'wow, I didn't know that' so it's been a good learning experience for the whole family."

The Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit has traveled to hundreds of locations across the Permian and Appalachian Basins.

The goal of the unit is to offer students the chance to learn about STEM concepts, energy careers and industry-specific topics such as viscosity, drilling, permeability and more.

"We are offering school tours so we have a whole curriculum built around this unit so we're going to give teachers a chance to schedule a tour to look at it," Wesley said.

The unit was delivered to the museum at the beginning of July.

For more information about the unit, go to

If you go

— What: Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit.

— Where: Museum of the Southwest (Brown Science Center Classroom at the Blakemore Planetarium).

— When: Now-the end of September.