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Turbidity & Hydrofracking

Unit Plan: Hydrofracking - with Turbidity DataLesson: 5 Time: One class period Setting: Classroom
6-8, 9-12Data Exploration & NOS
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Students will know how turbidity and hydrofracking are connected, and will be able to explain the impact of hydrofracking with respect to ecosystem health using data.


    1. Students view data on the number of fracking wells. 
    2. Students return to data from Lesson 1, and synthesize this with their own experiences and data. 
    3. Students discuss the implications of hydrofracking, specifically with a view on turbidity, for ecosystem health.


    Copies of student handout

    Computers with internet connection for student work

    1. Engage: Give students time to investigate how fracking well density has increased in the United States, using the worksheet as a guideline.  Ask students how the number of wells may influence water quality. 
    2. Explore: Often, in states where hydrofracking has been allowed to take place, the regulations are not uniform.  In Pennsylvannia, the industry proceeded for more than a decade without standard regulations from the DEP.  At the time of this writing, NPR had an interactive available to show the growth in the number of wells in PA.  Students should notice that there are wells all over the state, often right next to waterbodies. 
    3. After students have explored the hydrofracking data, they then look at the percentage of streams in five states that have hydrofracking wells within 100m, 200m, and 300m.  Students should interpret this chart. Scientists have found that in places like the Marcellus shale, about 65% of the wells are within 300m of a stream watershed.
    4. Next, students return to the graph from the initial lesson that relates to the release of methane from fracking wells.  The two graphs explore students’ understanding of scatterplots vs bar graphs with error bars.  Students are asked to evaluate the strengths and limitations of each type of graph.
    5. Explain: Students should consider how different graphs help scientists visualize data – scatterplots help you see all of these data, while bar graphs show the averages.  If you add error bars to the bar graphs, you will be able to see the range of the samples as well as the averages. 
    6. Evaluate:  Students should complete the rest of the lab sheet. Pay attention to students’ ability to state a claim, provide adequate evidence, and connect the evidence and claim through reasoning.  Encourage students to synthesize all of the evidence available to them.   

    Lesson Files

    Student Worksheet
    Worksheet Answer Key

    Benchmarks for Science Literacy

    2B Mathematics, Science and Technology, 8C Energy Sources and Use, 12A Values and Attitudes

    NYS Standards

    MST 3- Mathematics in real-world settings, MST 4- Physical setting, living environment and nature of science, MST 6- Interconnectedness of mathematics, science, and technology (modeling, systems, scale, change, equilibrium, optimization)
    Next Generation Science Standards

    Science and Engineering Practices

    Construction explanations and designing solutions, Engaging in argument from evidence

    Fractracker Alliance Website

    Entrekin, S., Evans-White, M., Johnson, B. & E. Hagenbuch.  2011.  Rapid expansion of natural gas development poses a threat to surface waters.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 9(9), 503-511.