Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Green Room

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Green Room

Article excerpt

Fracking for Natural Gas

Having taught Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science for 11 years, I'm always interested to see which topics the free-response questions (FRQs) of the AP Environmental Science exam address each May. The 2012 exam asked about fracking (see "On the web"). The question included a short article and asked students to describe the environmental problems (water-related and other) and economic benefits associated with using fracking to extract natural gas.

Could you answer the fracking FRQ? Newshounds could. My "fracking" search on the New York Times website returned 13,400 articles. The natural gas topic page has regular updates on fracking news (see "On the web").

Fracking basics

In horizontal hydraulic fracturing, a mixture of water, chemicals, and sand ("fracking fluid") is used to recover previously inaccessible natural gas from shale (Botkin and Keller 2011). The fluid is sent underground at high pressures, fracturing shale to release trapped gas. The New York Times interactive graphic, "Extracting Natural Gas from Rock," explains the method and potential problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides a summary of fracking, including updates on federal regulations (see "On the web").

For your classroom

Videos can entertain and inform your students about the basics of fracking. "The Fracking Song," for example, is a short music video (see "On the web") with a catchy refrain. For a bit more information, find a five-minute video about fracking with background information and postviewing discussion questions on Teachers' Domain, a resource-heavy website that's free but requires registration. A 56-minute TV documentary, "Fracking: Weighing the Risks," recently aired on PBS and can be watched online (see "On the web"). The program explores all sides of this controversial issue in interviews with scientists, environmentalists, and energy industry representatives. Watch the PBS Teachers website for related lesson plans in the coming months (see "On the web"). Finally, watch Gasland with your students. Nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Gasland documents the natural gas boom in the United States, the role of fracking in that boom, and the environmental and societal impacts involved (see "On the web"). …

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