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Unit Plan: Hydrofracking - with Chloride Data Lesson: 1 Time: 1 class period Setting: Classroom Objectives:

Students will understand the process of hydrofracking and will be able to use a short article to explain the benefits and drawbacks.    


  1. Students will understand the process of hydrofracking and will be able to list the  benefits and drawbacks of the process.   
  2. Students will know that there are differences in methane concentrations between drinking water wells that are in active and in non-active drilling sites. 
  3. Students will evaluate whether they agree with the process of hydrofracking based on the information provided to them. 
  4. Students will interpret a graph of methane concentration in drinking water near hydrofracking wells.
  5. Students will make a prediction about which variable will respond to the application of hydrofracking flowback water.  

Copies of student worksheet

Connection to internet for viewing images of fracking

  1. Engage:  Students may not be familiar with the process of hydrofracking.  In order to introduce them to the process, show them images of fracking online (searching for images of hydrofracking is a good place to start).  Another interesting visual is the number of gas wells that have been drilled in PA since 2007.  Unconventional wells are the wells that use the newer technology of horizontal drilling combined with "fracking" the shale and inserting highly pressurized water and chemicals to extract the natural gas. 
  2. Explore: Hand out the student worksheet, “Hydrofracking & Forests” and the “Fracking Fury” article by Janna Palliser.  You could split the students up into smaller groups and have each group read only a part of the article, and then report back to the class, to make it more interactive.    
  3. Explain:  Hydrofracking is a controversial process that allows us to obtain natural gas from shale rock located deep underground for our energy needs.  There is an incredible amount of information available on the Marcellus Papers website, hosted by the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca: .  While there are many, many aspects of hydrofracking to consider, including economic and health concerns, explain to students that in this module we will only be focusing on the ecological concerns. 
  4. Extend: Students could write a point-of-view letter that explains what they think about hydrofracking in New York State, using outside resources.
  5. Evaluate: Students should complete the worksheet, interpreting the graph from the Osborn et al paper that demonstrates the link between methane concentrations and distance to a gas well.  This graph may be difficult for some students to evaluate, since it is a scatterplot using two different kinds of symbols. 
Lesson Files:
Benchmarks for Science Literacy: 7D Social Trade-offs 8C Energy Sources and Use NYS Standards: MST 7- Problem solving using mathematics, science, and technology (working effectively, process and analyze information, presenting results) ELA 4 - Language for communication and social interaction with a wide variety of people
Next Generation Science Standards
Science and Engineering Practices: Asking questions and defining problems Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Cornelia Harris, Cary Institute.