Disney Radio is being criticized by environmental groups for a 26-stop tour it made in Ohio to promote oil and gas drilling to elementary school students.
The Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) is funded by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. The program consists of "educational activities that highlight energy production in Ohio -- from formation to exploration, drilling to producing and processing to refining," OOGEEP said in a statement.
It is hosted by three members of staff from Radio Disney’s Cleveland office and includes interactive demonstrations on how gas and oil pipelines function, according to Aljazeera America.
DJ Taylor Bell teaches teams of kids to race to build pipelines out of straws. The first team to get three balls through the pipeline wins. During the race, other students are told to "Cheer these guys on like crazy."
If the “Rocking in Ohio” program is successful, Radio Disney plans to expand the tour to other states.
"Our country cannot survive without oil and gas,” OOGEEP’s Ron Grosjean told the Daily Record. “Kids are the best way (to spread the message). They retain (the information); they remember it."
Rhonda Reda, the executive director of OOGEEP, told Daily Record that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are "huge, huge areas."
Environmentalist groups are appalled at the program.
"It's troubling in the first place that they're going into elementary schools, and it's even more troubling that Disney is getting involved," said Alison Auciello, an organizer for Food and Water Watch in Ohio. "They're not giving a balanced education on (oil and gas). Public schools should also be inviting anti-fracking people into schools. That doesn't seem to be happening at all."
“I don’t think it’s doing the children or the state of Ohio any good,” said Robert Shields, chair of the Ohio chapter of the Sierra Club. “Kids’ ability to reason is not yet quite established, so it feels to me that they’re getting some kind of propaganda.”
Progressive group CREDO began an online petition to end the “Rocking in Ohio” program, which has 79,000 signatures.
“Immediately halt your road show promoting oil and gas extraction and pipelines to kids, and sever your partnership with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. Radio Disney should not--under the guise of teaching kids "science"--promote dirty energy that that gives kids asthma, pollutes our air and water, and fuels climate change,” the petition stated.