Barbers Hill ISD salutes corporate neighbors

ExxonMobil employee Jeffrey Leggett assists seventh-graders Reid Woodall and Ryan Mask during a Robotics project earlier this year.

MONT BELVIEU— Industry has played a significant role in Barbers Hill since the oil rush of the early 1900s. In fact, industry is what transformed the Hill from a sparsely populated farming community into a growing Houston suburb of the 20th and 21st centuries.
“Partnerships with local industries are a win-win situation,” said Superintendent Dr. Greg Poole. “So much of what we do in the education sector depends on a solid, supportive community – whether that’s families or businesses. We couldn’t ask for more supportive neighbors in either of those areas.”
Today, Barbers Hill’s largest industries are Enterprise Products and ExxonMobil Plastics. Both companies make vital contributions to public education . . . from the tax dollars they pay, to the Education Foundation donations they make, to the advisory boards on which they serve.

Enterprise Products has formed a unique partnership with Barbers Hill Education Foundation, pledging more than $1 million over the next 10 years. Foundation grants awarded annually to teachers directly support innovative classroom projects that may otherwise go unfunded – projects like the Grow Lab and ProScope Microscope project at Barbers Hill Middle School, or the Turn It software assisting high school students in Language Arts classes.
ExxonMobil has made an impact in tangible ways as well – through volunteer participation in events like Science Day and Robotics Day for Middle School students and in sponsoring Girls in Engineering.
Coordinated by eighth-grade science teacher Denise King, Science Day brought in nearly a dozen volunteers from ExxonMobil for a day of beakers and goggles, measuring, predicting and observing results.
“The day that the engineers of ExxonMobil came to our school was a blast!” said one eighth-grader. “I loved getting to work with acids and bases and had a really great time learning what chemical engineers do for a living. This just might be the career I would like to pursue.”
King offered a broader perspective of industry’s involvement in the teaching process.
“Science Day and Girls in Engineering are essential to the science curriculum at Barbers Hill Middle School,” King said. “Both events provide our students with relevant and fun hands-on experiments in the areas of chemistry and engineering. But even more than that, they provide the unique opportunity for our students to interact with people who have chosen careers in science.
“Students are the future employees of the industry that supports and surrounds our community. Our goal is to grow future scientists by making science exciting and interesting for students today,” King said.
In February, 60 eighth-grade girls from Barbers Hill Middle School participated in ExxonMobil’s Girls in Engineering Day – a time for girls to see first-hand what engineers do and where they work, and how chemistry applies to the real world. It’s also an opportunity for the company to reinforce what’s being taught on a daily basis in classrooms.
“ExxonMobil is committed to math and science education, and we look for ways to positively impact the communities in which we operate,” said Jennifer Chan, Mont Belvieu Plastics Plant Manager. “Introduce A Girl to Engineering Day is just one way in which we try to bring the fun of engineering to young girls who may not have been introduced to the concepts or believed they had real opportunities in this field.
“We aim to encourage the program’s attendees to explore this area of study and to start early to
ensure they are on the right track to enjoy future success,” Chan said.
ExxonMobil also responded quickly last fall to one teacher’s request for a grant that would allow students to construct miniature robots.
Middle School Language Arts teacher Karen Webb saw the opportunity for students to work together and apply concepts they’d discussed while reading the novel, Freak the Mighty.
Not only did ExxonMobil provide part of the funding for the project, they also provided engineers to help students as they began the construction.
“It was an awesome learning opportunity for my students in so many ways – in teamwork, mechanics, creativity and engineering,” said Webb. “I appreciate ExxonMobil’s commitment to education that makes a project like this possible.”