Children Taught “Fun” of Oil Drilling

The website for the Minerals Management Service (BOEMRE) now includes a link to a classroom activity for children titled, “Drilling for Oil Game.” They claim, “It can also be used as a fun activity for younger children.”  

The game involves using wooden sticks to represent drills, plastic boxes of sand, and shoe polish to represent the oil. The shoe polish is hidden under the sand and when a wooden stick is placed by a student into the shoe polish, obviously the point of the stick becomes darkened, which means you’ve hit oil! 

The game is not so offensive in what it presents, but rather in what it chooses to leave out. It mentions two prohibitions on drilling: “Label certain areas as protected from drilling because of important topographical structures (i.e., coral banks) or prehistoric or historic areas (i.e., Indian dwelling grounds or shipwrecks). MMS does not allow drilling in these areas.”

Curiously, it doesn’t at all mention the potential for an oil spill, large or small. Neither does it mention actual oil spills that have taken place, nor the damage caused by them to the marine environment. Equally strange is the lack of reference to a single specific marine animal, like whales or dolphins. The depiction of the Gulf of Mexico is that it is well-suited for drilling, rather than a biologically diverse environment, which is precisely what it is. Also missing: any mention of the endangered species located there. The oil drilling lesson appears very much like a public relations move for the oil industry. 

Here are just a few facts that need to be added to the oil drilling lesson:

  • “Bottlenose dolphins are the most common dolphin species in the Gulf and are estimated to number up to 45,000.” (source)
  • “In 2008, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the commercial fish and shellfish harvest from the five U.S. Gulf states was estimated to be 1.3 billion pounds valued at $661 million. The Gulf of Mexico’s shores and beaches, offering an ideal location for swimming, sun, and all water sports, supports a $20 billion tourist industry.” (source)
  • “Each year millions of landbirds migrate across or near to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.” (source)


The Gulf is also home to endangered turtles, which would be another nice addition to the “lesson”. 

Hopefully most teachers will see this exercise for what it really seems to be — oil drilling propaganda. And hopefully they won’t include a classroom exercise that blatantly omits some of the most important aspects of the Gulf of Mexico — and the risks in drilling there — into their lesson plans.

Image Credit: An Ce Ann Corr


Wendy L.
W L7 years ago

What an educational read -- I hope teachers and parents everywhere see this and refrain from using this game.

Emalou Foryou
Emily M7 years ago


Green Girl
Green Girl7 years ago

GREAT. Teach the children to make the same mistakes that our government and generation have made. What idiots we are...

Linda T.
Linda Thompson7 years ago

I can't imagine a teacher that would use it.

Becky Berger
Becky Berger7 years ago

What a bunch of bullshit-teach children values-don't turn them into coporate jackasses who have no concerns other than making money. Is BP behind this or Exxon?

Jeanie Johnson
Jeanie Johnson7 years ago

Honest to god - what is the matter with our brains?! Drilling for oil game?? There are many of us who are truly sick.

Joy Mcronald
Joy M7 years ago

Why play games with sticks and boxes? I thought one went to school to learn how to do math and English, no wonder there are so many children that cannot read or write...

Terry B.
Terry B7 years ago

I thought that the government didn't have any money for little extras like reasonable health care, social security, jobs, etc.

(Well, I guess some dolt got a job creating this foolishness.)

Karen C.
Karen C7 years ago

The MMS needs to include other data about wildlife and the hazards of drilling. The game is okay as long as the other information is available on the site.
I have e-mailed the MMS to see if they plan to add the additional information and will let you know if I get a response.

Lauren A.
Lauren A7 years ago

Further steps need to be taken to educate the young children that will be playing this game about all of the pros and cons of oil drilling, including environmental concerns such as those that were pointed out in this article: oil spills and marine animals. Sure it may be a fun game for children, but we don't want them growing up and not understanding the real consequences of oil drilling.