Children sit in neat rows on the floor, fidgeting and eager. Educator Michael Nevels preps them for the hands-on science activity they’re about to explore. “When you get home today check out your jacket. Look on the label. If it says polyester or nylon, it was made from oil.”
These fifth-graders from Barbara Webster Elementary in Santa Paula are about to get their hands on the MOLU – Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit – a tech-focused science exhibit that surprises students when they learn many everyday products besides transportation fuels are made from petroleum. The six self-contained learning centers of the MOLU are designed to encourage, intrigue and inspire.
An early introduction to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education helps connect these kids to fields with lucrative, high-demand jobs. That’s especially important for low-income students like those from Barbara Webster, where 99% of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-cost lunch. “For my kids, it’s a stretch for them to understand that there’s a possible job like this that could await them,” Principal Jeff Madrigal says. “This shows them that there’s the larger world of ideas out there.” The MOLU program is sponsored in part by local oil companies and is free for schools.