The Best Practices in Marcellus Shale Education Conference was held March 18-19 in Ithaca, NY, attended by about 60 individuals from around the northeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S., especially New York and Pennsylvania. Information about the meet and the agenda (available here) have been maintained online, because many of the presentations and notes from discussions during the conference have been linked to the agenda and may be be useful to other educators.

The focus of the conference was on education and outreach practices in communicating about Marcellus shale gas drilling and other polarizing issues. The Marcellus Shale serves as a case study from which we can learn about energy education more broadly, including attention to the challenges of teaching the science of a controversial issue.

Topics included:

  • development of energy literacy,
  • Earth system and environmental literacy,
  • scale in space and time and Earth systems,
  • effective communication about complex and interdisciplinary issues,
  • strategies for teaching and learning about risk, socioeconomic issues, and local and global environmental considerations,
  • the roles of education and advocacy,
  • strategies for maintaining civil discourse, and,
  • broad lessons we are learning for applicability to other energy issues.

Threading throughout these topics were discussions of how to help people to learn and have constructive conversations about energy when the topic is deeply polarizing.

The target audience was professional educators striving to provide impartial education and outreach on issues surrounding shale gas development. Examples include schoolteachers, college and university faculty, Cooperative Extension educators, science journalists, and museum educators. We sought to have attendees from a broad geographic region and a variety of educators. Speakers included scientists, educators and journalists. The meeting did not include talks that focussed upon a review of shale gas drilling itself or cover policies and regulations.

The meeting was partially funded through grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF GEO 1015189 and GEO 1035078). It was hosted by the Paleontological Research Institution and the Cornell Cooperative Extension Marcellus Outreach Team.