Education:Oil: America’s Complicated History with Black Gold


Title of Lesson

Oil: America’s Complicated History with Black Gold


10-12; US History I and US History II

Time required for completing lesson

1-2 class periods


6.3.12.H.1; 6.4.12.H.1

Common Core Standards

Grades 9-10 Key Ideas and Details RH.9-10.2: Determine a central idea or information of a primary source or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

RH.9-10.3. Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas RH.9-10.9. Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

Materials Required

Whiteboard, projector, PowerPoint, copies of readings, videos

Anticipatory Set

1) Teacher will point out that oil had been collected for centuries through “seeps”, or areas where oil naturally seeped out of the ground. Edwin L. Drake engineered a way to generate more oil out of the ground by drilling. This revolutionized the oil industry and changed the course of the 20th century. 2) Discussion of historical examples of environmental damage caused by oil spills. These include Exxon Valdez and the BP oil spill. 3) Short teacher-generated PowerPoint on The History of America’s relationship with oil.


1) Students will fill in a blank map of the world, identifying the top oil reserve countries in the world. 2) Students will read the excerpt from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States titled “The Thistle” about the history of the twentieth century being a history of oil. 3) Students will watch a short video from the History Channel’s series “America: The Story of US” about “Black Gold”. The video details the Spindletop oil field, which in 1901 created the Texas oil boom.


1) Students will break into groups in order to debate the future of energy policy in the United States. Each group will devise their own plan. They will consider the sustainability of oil, the effect of the Green movement, US foreign policy, Middle East relations, and various potential alternative energy sources. 2) Open-ended question: What is fracking? Identify the positive and negative aspects of the fracking industry.


1) Literacy skills will be applied throughout the lesson. 2) Computer skills will be applied. 3) Artistic and graphic aspects of the lesson will be applied. 4) Oral and debate skills will be emphasized.


1) Main ideas and supporting details of reading will be highlighted 2) Varied methods of lesson plan to accommodate different learning abilities. 3) Small group interaction


1) Teacher will lead a class discussion on the possibilities of alternative energy sources in the 21st Century. 2) Teacher will point out that technology and progress have always been at conflict with sustainability, conservation, and environmentalism. New alternative energy sources with have to understand and manage the conflict between the two competing forces.


Submitted by

Neal Ziskind