The 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico drew international attention to the complex relationship between oil, water, and people along Louisiana's Gulf Coast. Before the spill began, over two thousand square miles of Louisiana's wetlands had already disappeared, leaving in their absence increased exposure to hurricanes, the relocation of local populations, and radical changes in the daily lives of local peoples. This essay explores the challenges and opportunities associated with teaching a course on the oil spill in which equal weight is given both to ecological concerns and to the needs of working-class people whose livelihoods depend on the lands and water-scapes affected by the spill. In the process, the essay, which examines methods for democratizing the classroom, raises questions about the ways environmental history is taught and the need for institutional flexibility and.