An Inquiry into the Northern Gateway Pipeline

-by Greg Neil, Grade 7 Math/Science Teacher

In the Spring of 2014, I was looking for an engaging question that would connect to the Grade 7 Science Unit Ecosystems and Interactions. At the time, I was hearing a lot in the news about the Northern Gateway Pipeline and I had just secured a grant from ESRI to get training and support with their ArcGIS platform. This quickly developed into an ambitious idea for a major inquiry. I wanted my students to take the lead role in a comprehensive study of the Northern Gateway Pipeline (NGP)—a proposed project to transport oil and condensate along a 1,177 km route between Bruderheim, Alberta and Kitimat, British Columbia.

I adopted a student-led, inquiry-based approach to studying the pipeline, by simply asking students whether they thought it should be built. This quickly led to a huge list of questions that we would need to address in order to back up our opinions with sound reasoning. It was very important that my class develop informed opinions about the internationally publicized NGP and to understand the perspectives of as many stakeholders involved as possible. It was also important that my own opinions remain hidden in order to ensure my students were not influenced in any way.

My Grade 7 students drove the project themselves, formulating their own questions, mapping the planned pipeline route using ArcGIS, and researching its potential environmental and social impacts. We brought in guest speakers from Energy companies, Pipeline Companies and from Environmental Organizations. We even built a large scale model of the pipeline, to accompany our story map, which became the culmination of the students work, complete with a summary of their final decisions. Students even experimented on plants in order to learn about the potential impacts of chemicals entering the environment.

We presented our finished project at the Mayor’s Environmental Expo, held every June in Calgary, where our students received an award for their hard work. The video below provides a visual tour of this project and click here for access to our Story Map.

3 thoughts on “An Inquiry into the Northern Gateway Pipeline

  1. Everyone at Esri Canada is very proud of these students and their impressive analysis of this issue. Perhaps we will see one or more of these students again as a Young Esri Scholar or Scholarship winner when they study with GIS in their post-secondary careers!

  2. I was very impressed with the learning environment you so masterfully created as the students developed their understanding of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline using the disposition of inquiry approach and different forms of technology, including the ArcGIS platform. Their thoughtful responses in both the Story Map and in the video illustrated their deep level of understanding. Additionally, I appreciate how you incorporated so many different resources into the study and had multiple perspectives presented so the students could formulate their own opinions. You provided a rich learning environment for the students in the class, and you captured their excitement in the blog.

  3. It’s important that we teach our students about our energy resources and how they are managed so that they can make up their own opinions on oil and gas in the environment. None the less, great article. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *