Slick West Chester Sixth-Grader Debates Oil Drilling
Christopher Muth of West Chester represented the Teamsters Labor Union in a mock debate about oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
When Devon Prep Earth Science Teacher Ms. Melanie Picard assigned a mock debate project to her sixth-grade class, they were not very familiar with the controversy over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). However, by the time of the debate, not only did the 12 sixth graders understand the controversy, they even learned how various interest groups in the area felt about the issue.
They learned that the Refuge, located in northeastern Alaska, is the largest National Wildlife Refuge in the country. It consists of more than 19 million acres in the Alaska North Slope region. The question of whether to drill for oil in the ANWR has been an ongoing political controversy in the US since the late seventies. The controversy surrounds drilling for oil in a 1,500,000 acre subsection on the coastal plain. Much of the debate concerns the amount of economically recoverable oil weighed against the potential harm oil exploration might have upon the natural wildlife, especially the Porcupine caribou.
In an effort to present multiple perspectives on this issue, Ms. Picard divided the class into six pairs with each assuming the identity of an interest group. Each pair comprised a brief yet powerful argument that embodied their party’s beliefs. The participating groups included: Climate Change Experts, Sierra Club, Gwich’in Nation, Arctic Power, Inupiat People, and the Teamsters Labor Union
During the mock debate each interest group presented their arguments to the other groups and a Senate Committee comprised of three Devon Prep faculty members. They entertained questions from the other groups as well as the committee who were charged with making the final decision regarding oil drilling in ANWR.
Representing the Teamsters Labor Union was Seamus Slattery of Havertown. He thought the debate was a fun and informative project. “It was fun to find out about the group we had to represent,” he said. “We didn’t get to pick our group so some of us had to argue a side that we might not really believe in. It was interesting to find out about the different parties and their opinions.”
Graham Misko of Media agreed. “The project required a lot of research, but the debating was good," Misko said. “I was on the Sierra Club team. Listening to everyone present their arguments made me rethink my opinion a little. It was fun having real judges.”
In the end, based on the facts presented during the debate, the Senate Committee ruled not to drill. However, they did leave the door open, saying that the decision could change in the future when more factual information becomes available. Perhaps that means another debate in seventh grade for these guys.
The above release was submitted by Devon Prep.