To frack or not?

frackingpicThe extraction of gas from shale rock – hydraulic fracturing, or fracking – is widespread in the USA. Whilst some countries in Europe have banned fracking following concerns that substances used in the process pollute water, others want to exploit shale gas reserves to provide new – and cheap – sources of natural gas. In this activity, students decide whether they support a ban on fracking. They apply their knowledge of the properties of rocks to decide whether substances from fracking can get into water, and learn how to justify opinions.


This material is called a Sequence, as it is designed to last two lessons. It explicitly teaches an important Working Scientifically skill, as well as developing science knowledge.

Science objective

Earth structure:  explain why a rock has a particular property based on how it was formed (KS3 Science Syllabus)

Designed for the KS3 Science SyllabusEnquiry objective

Justify opinions: give opinions, present evidence to support their opinions, and explain their reasoning (KS3 Science Syllabus)

Try the activity

Note: There are four different versions of the lesson presentations. Download the ones for the country you teach in.

Running the activity

Lesson 1
Engage Get students interested in the issue of fracking, its benefits and possible links to water pollution and related health implications
Review Students review their understanding of why rocks have particular properties, and consider whether substances from fracking fluid can get into water
Consider Students consider whether substances from fracking fluid can harm humans

Lesson 2
Engage Review the dilemma about whether fracking should be banned
Play Students play a game to learn how to justify opinions
Decide Students critique the claim made about cycling before writing a response Groups use information about fracking, as well as new skills in justifying opinions, to plan and present a one-minute talk about whether fracking should be banned

For detailed running notes, download the teachers guide.


Fracking video 1

A neutral view of fracking, explained in 5 minutes

Fracking video 2

Explanation of fracking from a fracking company

Fracking video 3

Several videos against fracking from a campaigning organisation

Fracking in Europe

This article from Deutsche Welle summarises the current state of play for fracking in European countries, and includes a useful map.

Newspaper article about EU fracking report

This article reports on a recent EU report on fracking.

Newspaper report in answer to the question ‘why is fracking bad?’

A clear and relatively balanced report on fracking

Fracking and drinking water in the USA

A report about contaminated drinking water in the USA

Pollutants from fracking

This long and detailed article describes pollutants from substances used in fracking, written from a particular perspective.