CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: The Oil Industry Today

Social Studies, Science, Business Studies
3 lessons
To investigate various ways that oil is extracted and refined, and to examine the environmental impact and long-term effect of these processes
Students will use a variety of web-based resources to investigate how oil from oil sands is extracted and processed, and compare these procedures to those used for standard oil wells. They will use a computer presentation program to share their findings and will create and participate in a symposium about the future of the oil economy in Alberta.

Lesson Plan


The Leduc well has changed the economy of Alberta forever. But there are other oil finds in Alberta, particularly the one at the Oil Sands in the Fort McMurray area. The procedures used to extract and process oil from oil sands are different from those used for oil wells. Extracting and refining oil has had, and will continue to have, an environmental and economic impact on the province of Alberta.

The Task

Students will research, describe, and compare the procedures for extracting oil from oil sands and from conventional wells.

Students will then complete further research to examine the environmental impact of each process and the effect on the economy of exploiting the available oil in the province.

Using their research, students will prepare a presentation outlining the long-term effects on the environment, on the oil industry, on the provincial economy, and on the people of Alberta of using each method of oil extraction. They will share their presentation with the class as part of a class symposium on the future of Alberta's oil economy.

The Process

Students will first review all clips on the topics  Striking Oil in Alberta and Developing the Alberta Oilsands on the CBC Digital Archives website. Students can then use other internet sources to gather additional information. Students should record the sources they used and include a list of works consulted and cited with their presentation.

Have students use their information to prepare their final presentation.


Students will share their presentations with the class and generate a discussion about the environmental impact of the two types of oil extraction processes, particularly in the context of the Kyoto Protocol. They can also discuss the benefits of the oil industry to the Alberta economy and their predictions about the longevity of this resource in Alberta.

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