Lesson Plan Overview

Oil Crisis:
Get Into The Game

How Bad Can It Get?

Life Is Starting To Change

Elasticity and Collapse

Oil Dependency
Among Nations

Food Without Oil


Preparation and Community

Lessons Learned

Your World Without Oil



Oil Crisis: Get into the Game

A global oil crisis has begun. Oil usage worldwide has increased to where the oil supply can only meet 95% of it. This lesson imagines the day when this reality first hits the news, and asks your students to get into the game by playing it as if it were really happening in their lives. Their inquiry into the effects of less oil in the world around them and their personal search for ways to live well while consuming less energy will bring up issues about petroleum use and allocation, renewable and non-renewable resources, the role of energy in economy and culture, and many others.

In this and succeeding lessons, you will present developments in the oil crisis as though they were really happening, and ask the students to deal realistically and personally with the life-changing reality of this oil shortage. As their inquiry brings up topics and issues, you can use resource information we provide to enhance students' understanding. 

Lesson Objectives
Students will:

Before the Lesson

Part 1: Set the Stage
Student Page for this lesson is here:
This page summarizes ideas and instructions for students.

  1. Introduce the situation to the class: "Did you hear? Oil prices increased dramatically today. They say a shortage is coming! Here, watch this video." Get "into game" and act as though the oil crisis were really happening, lapsing "out of game" only when it's necessary for students' understanding.
  2. Show Kal's first video - "Oil Spike!"
    and Anda's webcomic about college students:

  3. Introduce the challenge: students must immerse themselves in this new reality, and figure out how the coming shortage will affect them and their families in order to avoid the worst of its impacts. What risks to their quality of life do they see? What will each student do in response to these risks? Encourage them to get "in game" throughout the WWO lessons.
  4. Introduce the related ideas of "collective intelligence," "crowdsourcing" and "citizen journalism." Put forth this thesis: "Oil is such a pervasive part of modern life that it will take all of us working together to plot out and chronicle the impacts of an oil shortage."
Part 2: Take Action
  1. Divide the students in groups of three to five students.  NOTE: Most of the lessons will involve some level of student collaboration and discussion. You may want to select groups based upon ability level and maintain the same groups throughout the World Without Oil lessons.
  2. Have each student group discuss the following questions:
  3. Have the students read reactions from WWO players, and compare these ideas to their own. Assign a different pair to each group:
  4. Have one member from each group share the group's overall reactions.  Record the key points made by each group.  Keep this list and as events unfold during the game, discuss how perceptions have changed and add new items.

Part 3: Lesson Activity

Could we have seen this oil crisis coming? Give an overview about oil production and consumption.

Part 4: Reflect
You've immersed the students in the crisis; given them an initial understanding of the very real problems they and their families might face there; begun to explore the intricate connections we all have to cheap energy from oil; and established the reality of the world's oil situation.  For their first reflection, have students share their first reactions to the current situation.  Use the following question to help guide their reflections:

Part 5: Take it Further
Distribute this to your students (and if appropriate refer them to your blog):

You've learned a lot today about oil and its role in modern society. To take it further today, get seriously into the game:

Post your findings on your blog, and if you can, add photographs, drawings, audio files, or video.

Additional Resources

Lessons Overview
Independent Lens Electric Shadows Independent Television Service Corporation for Public Broadcasting Ken Eklund, Writerguy
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National Standards (McREL)

Overarching (All Lessons)

Standard 44.
Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world

Level IV (Grades 9-12), Benchmark 2:
Understands rates of economic development and the emergence of different economic systems around the globe (e.g., systems of economic management in communist and capitalist countries, as well as the global impact of multinational corporations; the impact of black markets, speculation, and trade in illegal products on national and global markets; patterns of inward, outward, and internal migration in the Middle East and North Africa, types of jobs involved, and the impact of the patterns upon national economies; the rapid economic development of East Asian countries in the late 20th century, and the relatively slow development of Sub-Saharan African countries)


Lesson 1: Specific Standards


Standard 2: Understands characteristics of different economic systems, economic institutions, and economic incentives           

Level IV, Benchmark 1: Understands that the effectiveness of allocation methods can be evaluated by comparing costs and benefits

Level IV, Benchmark 5: Understands that in every economic system consumers, producers, workers, savers, and investors respond to incentives in order to allocate their scarce resources to obtain the highest possible return, subject to the institutional constraints of their society

Standard 3: Understands the concept of prices and the interaction of supply and demand in a market economy

Level IV, Benchmark 1: Understands that the demand for a product will normally change (i.e., the demand curve will shift) if there is a change in consumers’ incomes, tastes, and preferences, or a change in the prices of related (i.e., complementary or substitute) products

Level IV, Benchmark 5: Understands that shortages or surpluses usually result in price changes for products in a market economy

Standard 4: Understands basic features of market structures and exchanges

Level IV, Benchmark 6: Understands that a natural monopoly exists when it is cheaper for one supplier to produce all of the output in a market than for two or more producers to share the output (e.g., electric companies)

Level IV, Standard 5: Understands unemployment, income, and income distribution in a market economy

Level IV, Benchmark 2: Understands the concept of supply and demand in the labor market


Standard 5: Understands strategies used in natural resource management and conservation

Level IV, Benchmark 5: Knows traditional energy sources (e.g., petroleum, coal, wood) as well as alternative energy sources (e.g., wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, biofuels)

Standard 16: Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources

Level IV, Benchmark 2: Understands programs and positions related to the use of resources on a local to global scale

Level IV, Benchmark 3: Understands the impact of policy decisions regarding the use of resources in different regions of the world

United States History

Standard 31: Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States

Level IV, Benchmark 1: Understands how changes in the national and global economy have influenced the workplace


State Standards (All Lessons)