One of a kind California Oil Museum offers fun student tours/workshops
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: January 04, 2013
Santa Paula’s unique California Oil Museum has a lot to offer - especially as a fun way to teach kids - members of the Rotary Club learned at a recent meeting.
Museum Director Jeanne Orcutt and Bonnie Walters, the museum’s educator, spoke of activities at the museum.
Located at the corner of 10th and East Main streets, the Queen Anne building - a national landmark - was the 1890 birthplace of Union Oil, which later became Unocal. The building is not only a reminder of the past - including its extensive permanent exhibits tied to the oil industry including memorabilia - but also a modern interactive lesson on everything you ever wanted to know about petroleum.
The museum also has numerous revolving exhibits: the Hengehold Gallery is regularly used for Santa Paula Historical Society displays, and other rooms at times have been devoted to art, quilts and motorcycle exhibits. Each year the museum draws about 2,200 kindergarten to 12th grade students for the exhibits and special programs created by Walters.
The museum now offers six unique programs for students, including for the Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! display through February 24. Such exhibits as well as the permanent displays offer a teaching component designed by Walters that can involve workshops and teacher study plans.
An example is the museum’s Black Gold Adventure Tour that addresses how Native Americans - the first oil consumers - used tar to present day uses of petroleum. The Rig Room offers the sense of working in a circa 1890s oil field where top pay was a then-impressive $4 a day for manning such a contraption, in the museum’s case an authentic full-size drill rig from that era.
Students also get a true hands-on learning experience through the Earth Science Series where they study rocks and minerals, oil seeps, soils to sands, and other programs. Walters said Girl and Boy Scouts have earned merit badges through museum educational programs.
What makes the museum “so special” is the availability of such workshops. Walters noted although Bakersfield is also home to an oil museum it does not offer workshops. The museum offers a true “enrichment plan” that involves pre- and post-lesson plans, as well as plenty of equipment such as microscopes for student use during workshops.
Rocks & Minerals offers students an up close look at rocks and crystals as they learn through the interactive workshop. There are nine specific activities that make up the Our Dynamic Earth tour and workshop, which examines the makeup of the earth and those seismic activities that rock it.
Fossils Through Geologic Times, From Soils to Sand, Nature’s Abundance and Natural Oil Seeps are other programs offered by the museum. Walters said coming soon are new programs centered on energy comparisons, chemistry of hydrocarbons, Crystallography and more.
The cost for the school tour and workshop is only $4 per student and Walters said programs also attract field trips by groups of home schoolers. For more information contact Walters at 933-0076.