MOGADORE: The fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at O.H. Somers Elementary School raced to build pipelines out of plastic chutes.
The two 15-member teams were charged with moving three pingpong balls that might have been natural gas or oil to a bucket at the end of the chute.
The 200 students in the cafeteria cheered wildly as the two teams worked together to get the balls into buckets.
The 60-minute Rocking in Ohio show was directed by Radio Disney Cleveland with emcee Taylor Bell and three staffers.
The interactive show, patterned after a television game show, was loud, noisy and raucous at times as students were eager to answer questions, play games and win prizes. There were dance contests, relay races, geology quizzes and crab-walk races.
The hands-on program was sponsored and funded by the Granville-based Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP). The stop in Mogadore was one of 26 such stops in eastern Ohio in the last few weeks by Radio Disney and sponsored by the oil and gas group.
This sponsorship has some anti-drilling activists in the state crying foul.
"It’s disgusting," said activist Teresa Mills of Columbus, a staffer with the Center for Health Environment and Justice.
Trying to reach children with a pro-drilling message "absolutely does bother us," she said.d
A recent assembly held in Youngstown so troubled local activists that they sent emails to the Cleveland radio station, Mills said.
Activists fear that the Ohio in-school program could spread across the country.
"It’s not something that Disney should be involved in," she said. "It’s about brainwashing our children."
Ohio activists have not made direct contact with Disney corporate executives in California, but they might if the battle escalates, she said.
The children may take the message home and sway their parents to support drilling, she said.
"They’re using children where they should not be using children," Mills said.
"Disney should be warm and fuzzy and dreamland, not promoting oil and gas. That’s just wrong," she said.
OOGEEP’s Rocking in Ohio is designed to get kids excited about careers in science, technology, engineering and math, not to push drilling, said Rhonda Reda, the program’s executive director.
The word fracking never popped up, she noted.
The program combines information about oil and natural gas creation and production with fun activities, she said. It also highlights the sciences involved in the drilling industry, such as chemistry and geology. The goal is to get children excited about science, she said.
And she points out that it was Radio Disney that approached her group to get involved in sponsoring the school assemblies.
The program, organizers say, was developed with input from Ohio science teachers and fits in with Ohio curriculum standards. OOGEEP completely funded the project and partnered with Radio Disney to present it.
"It allows science to be fun," Reda said. "Who better than Radio Disney to do that?"
OOGEEP is a nonprofit education and public outreach group of the Ohio drilling industry. It was founded in 1998.
The Mogadore school was selected for the program because Somers sixth-grade teacher Amy Wilson participated last summer in an OOGEEP program for educators.
Wilson said she was impressed by the Rocking in Ohio program and thought it provided the youngsters with plenty of useful information presented in a fun-filled way.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.