Exploring Natural Gas

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SWBAT understand the role of natural gas as a fossil fuel.

Big Idea

What's the deal with natural gas? How is it formed and is it really the best fossil fuel?


15 minutes

I start the lesson with a short movie produced by the America Gas Association. The movie extols the virtues of natural gas. My strategy is to introduce an obviously slanted source with the intention of promoting an understanding of critical interpretation. (RST-6.8-6 Analyze the author's purpose in providing an explanation.)

Before showing the video, I explain who produced it and ask table groups to respond to the following questions:

  1. What do you think the movie’s message will be? Why?
  2. What do you have to be aware of when you watch the movie?

My strategy is to use Learning Points. Learning Points are defined as important things you learned. I explain I will show the movie twice. The first time they watch I want students to think about their Learning Points. The second time students record Learning Points. I offer to stop the video when they need me to stop. Learning points can be recorded as words or drawings.  My intention is to promote student thinking as they watch for information and then watch to take notes. 

At the end of the movie, groups compare learning points. My strategy is Class Question/Answer. Students with questions ask the class to see if someone had the answer as a learning point.  My intention is to support the students who want to record learning points but their pacing is slower. These students may need additional help to complete their learning, My intention is to allow the group to help one another.

After sharing notes I ask students to label the learning points as True, False, or Exaggerated. My strategy is for students to consider what information might be slanted. 

The movie ends with the position, "Natural Gas is Clean, More Efficient, and Affordable". I ask the students, "Is this true or not?" I explain we are going to work at determining one's own answer. Take a look at what my students wrote about the movie in American Gas Film Notes



30 minutes

My next strategy is Conduct an Investigation. This investigation must be started at least 10 days before the lesson commences because fresh lettuce is going to be placed in a plastic bag.

The students place lettuce in a plastic bag and seal it so there is no air inside the bag. They roll up the bag, label it with a number, and measure the circumference of the bag. See the Lettuce Bags Before picture. 

Students record the circumference of the bag regularly over 10 days.

By the time the lesson is taught, there is data recorded. The purpose is to determine how natural gas is generated.

Students answer the following questions. 

  1. What happened to the lettuce in the bag?
  2. What was the cause?
  3. What was the effect?
  4. What happened to the bag’s circumference over time?
  5. What was the cause?
  6. What is the effect?
  7. Now think about how lettuce is only one type of food. What does this tell you about natural gas in foods? 
  8. What does this data tell you about food decaying over millions of years? 

Take a look at how my students answered the questions in Lettuce Tests.

 (SP1- Asking Questions and defining Problems to clarify and/or refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem.)


30 minutes

After the investigation, the class returns to the Learning Points. I split the class into three groups according to the three questions asked from the movie. The first group researches the question, "Is natural gas clean?" The second researches, “Is natural gas affordable?” The third group researches, "Is natural gas more efficient?" In an effort to help students understand the effects of climate change, I ask each group to look for information about climate change as it relates to these three questions. My goal is to allow the students the opportunity to learn information on their own. 

(MS ESS.3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century. )

I assign homework as a way for students to collect articles about natural gas. I ask students to research their question at home and bring in a reference. This strategy develops the use of research as a way to teach evaluating the credibility and value of a reference. Groups of students skim over references brought in to determine which is the best and why and then share out the references for a class discussion about the elements of a good reference. 

(RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table. RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.)

To support students as they use reference materials, I ask them to annotate the articles brought in from home. To see examples of my student's annotations, check out Annotation Samples. To promote understanding and to increase motivation, I allow students to use their texting language to annotate. I use three annotations; advantages of natural gas (#+), disadvantages of natural gas (#-), and interesting information (!!!!!). This way they are making visual references to materials so they can quickly refer to the annotations. 

When I taught this a second time I had the students annotate indicating Clean, Affordable, Efficient with a C, A, E and hashtags. Take a look at Annotations#2. I liked the CAE annotations because it seemed easier for the students to fill in the position chart. 

Students determined which of the three categories the information belonged. "Does is explain why natural gas is clean, affordable, or efficient?"


10 minutes

My first strategy is to use a use a advanced organizer to promote organizing information in a manner to defend a position. My students find evidence from the movie and the text reference and complete the table. 

Evidence For

Evidence Against




Not Clean




Not Affordable





Not Efficient


The purpose of the advanced organizer is to write a five to seven sentence summary supporting a position. My next strategy is an Evidence-based Reflection Summary. Students answer the question,

Is natural gas the energy of the future? 

Check out my Student Samples to see an example of the completed Advanced Organizer as well as a couple of summaries.