BISMARCK - Energy companies working with state government recently launched an online curriculum for fourth- and eighth-graders about the state’s power sources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, wind, solar power and biofuel, to name a few.

Absent from the curriculum is any mention of climate change.

The petroleum and natural gas module, for example, lists workforce shortages, high prices and increased truck traffic as challenges brought on by the oil and gas boom, but does not mention the environment.

“We really wanted to put the focus on the resources in North Dakota,” said Emily McKay, director of the Great Plains Energy Corridor. “There’s so much you can cover in the energy industry.”

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said the curriculum was intended to pique students’ interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, not “delve into social issues.”

“There’s a lot of information out there on that” already, said Ness, referring to climate change. But there is “very little curriculum” about North Dakota’s energy resources, he said.

Twelve energy companies paid for the project, matching grants from the Lignite Research Council and the Oil & Gas Research Council, for a total of $250,000, according to a release from the Great Plains Energy Corridor.

“We were unsuccessful in finding legislative funding in the 2013 Legislature, so we raised the funds to match these grant dollars,” Ness said.

More than 30 organizations contributed more than $150,000 in in-kind resources, the release said.

The “Energy: Powered by North Dakota” curriculum was designed to be a two-week unit of North Dakota studies taken by fourth- and eighth-graders, McKay said.

The curriculum meets standards for science and social studies, she said.

Teachers are not required to adopt this particular curriculum, though, said Peg Wagner, assistant director of the Department of Public Instruction’s Academic Standards Unit.

“There are multiple resources for them to choose from,” she said.

Next week, a printed version of the curriculum will be sent to every fourth- and eighth-grade classroom in the state, McKay said. The group is sending out 700 boxes with 15 to 45 books in each.

McKay echoed Ness, saying there are limited resources on this topic.

The curriculum was the brainchild of the EmPower North Dakota Commission, which makes some people nervous.

“There’s a fine line between promoting an industry and helping people be educated,” said Don Morrison, executive director of the Dakota Resource Council, a group that advocates for preservation and conservation issues.

Morrison said the EmPower group primarily represents the oil industry’s perspective.

“The EmPower committee has shown a narrowness, which comes from a lack of responsible leadership, and we’ll see if that plays out in this effort,” he said.

The “Energy: Powered by North Dakota” curriculum can be found at ndstudies.gov/energy/level1.

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