Kids rock: Quarry education

By |  June 11, 2015

Dolese mines goodwill across Oklahoma by helping students make the connection between quarries and earth science.

Kids and rocks are a great combination. Dolese, an Oklahoma aggregate producer, is doing its part to bring the two together.

Across Oklahoma, Dolese operates eight quarries, six sand-and-gravel operations, more than 50 ready-mix plants, a block plant and a masonry supply warehouse. A company outreach program, the Dolese Kids Rock Tour, gives kids throughout the state the opportunity to visit some of these sites and learn more about Dolese products and operations.

“We started the program with an invitation to one school, then kicked the program off in a big way in 2014 by reaching out to smaller communities in which we operate,” says Mark Helm, Dolese president. “Through this program, we want to give youth a better idea of the products that come out of our rock quarries, how aggregates are mined, how those products are used and how it relates to earth science.

To achieve this, Dolese partners with school administrators and science teachers to organize field trips to quarries throughout Oklahoma. As a result, Dolese has seen an increase in enthusiasm about its products from both students and adults assisting with the trips.

The idea for Kids Rock stems back to tours Dolese organized for leaders to help mitigate a water-use issue related to one of its facilities. The tours successfully helped local elected officials and community representatives understand the company’s water-use practices.

A program that rocks

The Dolese Community Relations Committee, which meets regularly to discuss company visibility, corporate giving and community relations topics, believed a program that brought kids to its quarries might further enhance the company’s community image and provide a proactive means for building community relationships.

“One of the science teachers who came along on our first tour told us she’d lived here all her life and had no idea we were here,” Helm says. “We believe that community members often don’t have a good understanding of quarry operations in their area, and programs like the Kids Rock Tour help inform and educate them about what we do and how we do it.

“We’re also thinking that some of these youth are potential employees and community leaders. Helping them understand our operation is also a significant benefit for us.”

Dolese employees played an active role in implementing the first Kids Rock Tours, working with schools and preparing employees and sites for tours. The first tour took place at the company’s quarry in Davis, Okla.

“At the Davis quarry we had already installed a nice overlook we used for tours involving adults,” Helm says. “We also had an area there that was designed for staging some of our large equipment. Since all of that was already in place, it was fairly easy to organize the first tour.”

In collaborating with teachers, the Dolese committee determined that two-hour tours for middle-school science students would allow enough time to bring kids in on a school bus, take them to the top of one of the quarry’s crushers to watch the crushing process and provide them with hands-on exploration of some of the trucks and other quarry equipment.

Dolese worked with teachers to establish guidelines for the tour’s size, a recommended number of volunteers to help with the event, and a dress code for participants to ensure safety.

Company employees working with the crusher and other quarry equipment prepared brief presentations to help kids understand what they were watching. Employees also fielded questions.

“We worked out a detailed plan of where to unload buses and walked through a process to safely guide them to the crusher and the overlook,” Helm says. “We provided each of the kids with a Dolese Kids Rock Tour T-shirt, too. Our safety personnel were involved in the planning to make sure everyone participating in the tour was safe.”

In selecting employees, the Dolese Community Relations Committee recruited employees who enjoyed working with kids and were comfortable speaking publicly. Because the tour was designed to “keep moving,” the company didn’t experience any behavior issues or difficulties during the tours.

According to Dolese, a typical Dolese Kids Rock Tour consists of a stop at the quarry break room, where students view a video explaining the company history’s and activities. Students are also provided a safety briefing and safety gear.

At the scale house, students observe how trucks are loaded and ticketed. From there they travel into the quarry pit, where employees talk to them about the quarry’s geology and how it relates to earth science. Then, it’s on to the crusher, where they use walkways and climb stairs to watch the crushing process.

“The final stop was at the quarry’s overlook, which gives kids a bird’s-eye-view of the quarry,” Helm says. “At that point we have samples of stones, concrete and asphalt, along with a bottle of water and snacks. As is typical with kids, there are a few who want to take a rock sample with them. On the overlook we also go over a worksheet we hand out at the beginning of each tour. It includes tour-related games, facts about the quarry and earth science. We give the students a pop quiz about that information to keep them involved and gauge how much they had learned during the tour. Those with correct answers received candy as a prize.”

Appreciative responses

What has pleased Helm and his company as much as the kids’ enthusiasm for the tours is the response of the teachers and adult volunteers who come along with students. Teachers usually ask to schedule a subsequent tour, and adults express their appreciation for the opportunity to learn more about the company and the quarry.

“Most of the adults are surprised at the size of the quarry and the amount of aggregate we mine each year,” Helm says. “They didn’t realize there was such a major aggregate company in their backyard.”

Helm has also appreciated the morale boost the tours have provided the company, as the events give employees an opportunity to talk about their work at the quarry.

“Our employees have always been involved in community volunteer activities themselves,” Helm says. “Some of our corporate community involvement has come from employee requests, and we’ve had a growing goodwill relationship with our community for a long time.

“We strive to have a family feel here,” Helm adds. “With 1,100 employees spread across two states, that’s not always easy. One other major activity our employees developed was a charity fundraiser that provides financial aid to employees in need. We did that with a chili cook-off featuring chili made by employees. Donations for tasting the different dishes provided the charity funds. The event was combined with a volleyball tournament, and it was an opportunity for employees to gather and have some fun together.”

Helm expects to expand the Kids Rock Tour program to both fall and spring tours that are held at several different quarries.

“Adults and kids got pretty excited about it and our employees enjoyed it, too,” Helm says. “It’s a fun way to engage youth in the community, and it seems they too get a lot out it.”

Take note

Dolese expects to expand its Kids Rock Tour to both spring and fall tours that are held at different quarries.

Loretta Sorensen is a freelance writer in Yankton, S.D. She produces material on a variety of topics, serves as a ghostwriter, and has authored her own books. Additional information about Dolese and the Kids Rock Tour is available at

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About the Author:

Allison Kral is the former senior digital media manager for North Coast Media (NCM). She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she received a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She works across a number of digital platforms, which include creating e-newsletters, writing articles and posting across social media sites. She also creates content for NCM's Portable Plants magazine, GPS World magazine and Geospatial Solutions. Her understanding of the ever-changing digital media world allows her to quickly grasp what a target audience desires and create content that is appealing and relevant for any client across any platform.

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