In the Trenches - July 2015
Volume 5, Number 3
In This Issue
This site provides web links that supplement the print articles as well as news and web resources. Members can follow the "Read more" links below to access full versions of the articles online. To receive the full edition of In the Trenches, join NAGT
Letter from the Guest Editor
Fine-grained silica sand is mixed with chemicals and water before being pumped into rock formations to prevent the newly created artificial fractures from closing after hydraulic fracturing is completed.
Don Haas, Paleontological Research Institution
This issue of In the Trenches focuses on the complex set of processes for extracting oil and natural gas known as slickwater horizontal high volume hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as "fracking." While all the authors recognize that the label "fracking" technically applies to just one part of the set of processes, it is the term in common parlance, and we have opted to maintain consistency and simplify readability by adopting this term across the articles. We do harbor concerns that this simplification may reinforce misconceptions and the term evokes bias, so attention to the choice of language warrants discussion in your teaching. Read more...
Using News Reports as a Source for Controversy-Based Pedagogy
An activist leads a chant during an anti-fracking demonstration in Manhattan.
Eric Pyle, James Madison University
Some teachers avoid controversial topics, while others embrace them as "teachable moments." Perennial "controversies" include biological evolution and biogenesis, and local news media regularly provide reports of local interest. The audience often operates under the assumption that the news media exists to inform the public. The purpose of the media, however, is to sell the media, and controversies sell well. William Randolph Hearst told Frederic Remington, sent to Cuba in 1897 to document the potential for war there, "You furnish the pictures. I'll furnish the war." Read more...
Policy Conference on Fracking: A Fun and Engaging Teaching Tool
Pat Wood (principal, Wood3 Resources), Russ Ford (executive vice president, Onshore Gas, Upstream Americas, Shell Exploration and Production), Mike Brune (executive director, Sierra Club), and moderator Brian Dumaine (senior editor at large and co-chair, Brainstorm GREEN, Fortune) discuss fracking at a 2012 conference at Laguna Niguel, California.
Darrick Evensen, Oberlin College
Shale gas and oil development via high-volume hydraulic fracturing has major environmental, economic, and social implications; it has also raised heated debates in public and political discourse throughout the United States and several nations globally. When teaching about fracking, a major challenge is conveying the natural, physical, and social scientific research while also helping students understand the policy process through which this science contributes to regulatory decision-making. Read more...
Multidisciplinary Approaches to Energy in the Classroom
Jeffrey B. Jacquet and Timothy J. Nichols, South Dakota State University
Weighing costs and benefits of energy produced via hydraulic fracturing requires an understanding of the technical nature of the nation's energy system, energy alternatives, and social and economic energy issues locally and globally. Yet many academic offerings in energy are narrowly discipline-specific. South Dakota State University is offering multidisciplinary undergraduate courses to introduce students to complex issues related to not only fracking but the portfolio of energy types and uses used by the US and beyond.Read more...
Basic Fracking Math
Figure 2: Picturing two million gallons. These screen grabs from time-lapse video show Lock C6 on New York’s Champlain Canal before andafter filling. The difference in volume between the two images is roughly two million gallons. See the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPTlYaYT4gc.
Don Haas, Paleontological Research Institution; John Taber, IRIS
Our energy system is complex and changes to the system like fracking for oil and natural gas have effects that ripple throughout the system. Fracking is also notoriously polarizing, and teaching about such issues requires special attention to avoid reinforcing misconceptions. Providing accurate information is necessary but insufficient for teaching and common strategies often backfire (Cook and Lewandowsky, 2011). One promising strategy for avoiding backfire is to "hit between the eyes" with hard-to-deny evidence (Kuklinski, 2000). Mathematics plays a fundamental role in "hitting between the eyes."Read more...
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NAGT, its members, and its sponsored projects have produced a number of resources related to the topics addressed in this issue.
The results of this Cutting Edge workshop include collections of teaching activities, course descriptions, visualizations, and other pedagogic resources such as Teaching Energy with Quantitative Skills.
This website from CLEAN explores the energy literacy principles found in the Energy Literacy Framework, and provides scaffolding for teaching the energy science.
In order to teach controversial topics effectively, we must be especially aware of the role of the affective domain and the potential for affective roadblocks. If a contentious topic doesn't sit well emotionally, then students may be unable to learn the science.
Education research on using socioscientific issues to teach science has shown that it increases student interest and motivation, improves the development of their higher order thinking skills, and increases their understanding of the nature of science. This pedagogic module from Pedagogy in Action provides the What, Why, and How of doing that.
Students learn to apply decision-making and problem-solving skills when discussing topics of importance to them. Unlike debates, which typically force a decision between two ideas that may or may not be mutually exclusive, Structured Academic Controversies encourage students to think about the complexities and ambiguities that often characterize controversial issues.
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