Teach PA History
Edible Coal Mining
Equipment & Supplies
  • Edible building supplies to be donated by students" parents (ex. Chocolate chips, graham crackers, pretzel rods, icing, marshmallows, sprinkles, candies, bread, etc.) Paper plates (2 per pair) Overhead projector/one overhead transparency Corkboard Push pins Ball of yarn or string (cut into eight 2-ft. strands) Scissors Magic Marker 10 index cards

Day One

Preparation: Before the class begins, print off two copies of Mining Methods Diagram. Create an overhead transparency with one copy. Take the second copy and pin it to the middle of a large cork board. Place the corkboard aside

Depending on your class size print out enough copies of Student Handout 1-Coal Cards to be able to give one card per student. [Since their are 10 cards per handout, 2-3 copies should suffice]. Cut these into cards and pair like cards.

1. Begin the lesson with class discussion on coal. The goal is to identify students" awareness level of uses of coal. Lead them into the awareness that coal is used everyday by everyone.

  • Can anyone tell me what they know about coal?(Get it from underground, there are different types, it produces heat, parents may use it in barbeque, etc.)

  • Did anyone use coal or a product made from coal today? (Most likely, they will not think that they did. If they say yes, they did, ask them how.)

  • Coal is actually used to make steam which powers some electric generators that run our electricity. Can you give me an example of some electric item you used today? (Any electric item is acceptable. Point out things in the classroom as well.)

  • Some coal, special coal called bituminous coal, is actually burned to make a product called "coke". Coke is used to help in the steel making process. Has anyone used anything steel today? (Automobiles, buses, etc.)

  • Leftovers from the coking process are also used to make everyday items. For example, things like paint, dishes, perfume, and some vitamins are made from "leftovers".

  • So, let me go back to my original question- has anyone used coal or a coal product today? (Everyone should now acknowledge, yes, they did).

2. Now that we know how important coal is to our lives, we are going to look at some of the ways that miners actually get the coal out of the ground.

  • Can you tell me any types of mines? (Students may know of surface mines or mines underground.)

  • Why do you think people create different types of mines? (People create different types of mines depending on the location of the coal and the shape of the land surrounding the mine.)

  • To get familiar with some of the types of mining, let's look at some examples.

Distribute to each person in class Student Worksheet 1 - Basics of Mining. Display Mining Method Diagram on an overhead projector. As a class, read through terms and descriptions of mining techniques and highlight any information about the land around the mine or the references to the location of coal. Use Teacher Guide to Student Worksheet 1-Basics of Mining for reference. As you read each definition use the Mining Method Diagram to visually identify all of the mining techniques covered on Student Worksheet 1. (Students will use this worksheet again in Day 2, so make sure they hang on to it!)

3. Next obtain a large cork board and place it in the front of the class. The board should have a printed copy of the Mining Method Diagram pinned in the middle.

4. Display an image of a specific mine entrance or type of mining. Ask students what part of the diagram they think this image represents. Have a volunteer come up and place the image next to the area it represents in the diagram (think magnifying glass of specific part of diagram). Once students confirm the correct placement, use a tack and run a piece of thin yard or twine between the location on the diagram and the image, wrapping the yard/twine around the tack at both ends.

Continue with each image discussing the tell-tale characteristics of each type of mine opening or mining technique. In the end, your class will have constructed a web of images illustrating different mining techniques and openings. Use the following images:

Continuous Miner

  • Continuous mining machines rip the coal from the coal face and load it onto shuttle cars that transport the coal to a central loading point for removal from the mine. Several blue continuous miners are seen in the diagram.

  • Coal Miners in Hazelton, PA, 1900
  • This black and white image shows miners blackened with coal coming up to the slope entrance after their shift has ended. [Slope mine]

  • Strip Mining in Fayette County, PA
  • This photo is an example of strip mining. It shows machinery clearing away soil to get to the coal seam. [This is the only picture not clearly illustrated in the diagram. The diagram illustrates open pit surface mining technique. Students can still place this on the side of the diagram that says "Surface Mining Methods" . You may wish to ask students why they think strip mining was not represented in the diagram. [The diagram illustrates terrain too mountainous/hilly for strip mining.]

  • Bituminous Coal Drift Mine
  • This is a drawing that shows an example of a bituminous coal drift mine. Tip: students should hone in on the tunnel going straight into the green hillside behind the coal loading station.

  • Contour Mining in Kentucky
  • The contour mine site is located in Bell County Kentucky (Middlesboro). Its location is less than a mile from the Cumberland Gap. The image shows reclamation that has taken place after the contour surface mining.

  • Auger
  • Here is an image of an auger as it drills for coal in a Pennsylvania mountainside.

  • Miners Coming Out of Shaft on "Cage," Scranton, PA
  • Miners are coming out of the elevator that takes them down into the shaft mine opening.

  • Mountain Top Removal Method
  • This photo shows the flattened tops of a mountain as miners remove the coal seams by removing the mountaintop.

For underground mining techniques there are two images each for room and pillar technique and longwall mining. Show the general diagram first, followed by the photographic image. These images could all be placed underneath the tunnels of the drift, slope, or shaft mines.

Room and Pillar Mining

  • This diagram shows the layout of the underground area when room and pillar mining is used. Note the "rooms" that are formed as the coal is mined. Areas that are not mined act as pillars used to support the mine.

  • Standard Mine, Interior, ca. 1914
  • This shows the interior of a mine and is an example of a room and pillar mining technique. [This image could be placed as a magnified section of room and pillar mining diagram.]

  • Longwall Mining
  • This diagram shows the layout of the longwall mining system as the longwall mining machine works back and forth along the coalface.

  • Longwall Mining Equiment in Operation
  • This is color photograph of a longwall mine in operation. The longwall mining machine is working its way along the coalface. A miner seen operating the machine is wearing a surgical mask to protect himself from coal dust.

5. Divide students into pairs according to your class size and management style. Pass out Student Handout 1-Coal Cards to each student. The cards each have a brief description of the type of mining as well as the land area that usually calls for this type of mining. Cut the cards apart and distribute to the pairs. You do not have to use all of the cards, adjust for your class size and interest in each type. (Each pair should receive two cards of the same technique.) Explain that they are to take their technique home and think about how they would create a model of it. Explain that tomorrow they will be building a model of their technique.

6. Also, distribute Student Handout 2-Parent Letter requesting edible donations for the next day. Explain to the class their homework is to bring in edible objects to help construct the model for tomorrow.

7. Conclude by asking:

  • Which type of mining do you think would create the greatest environmental damage? Why? [This is asking for student opinion. Certainly there are risks and benefits for all types of mining. However, surface mining such as strip mining and mountaintop removal pose significant problems to the environment because they disrupt the ecological system in the area. Some examples of environmental concerns include erosion, deforestation (clear cutting of forests), and pollution of the air and water (acid mine drainage). In more recent history there have been efforts to reverse the negative environmental impact of mines through a process called mine reclamation.]

  • Which type, in your opinion, would be the most dangerous working environment? (Students would probably agree that underground mining is most dangerous, although all of it has risks.)

  • Which types do you think would be the most efficient in retrieving coal? (Surface mining which includes strip mining and mountaintop mining are considered to be the most efficient types of mining.)

  • Which would require more man power? [Room and pillar conventional mining technique.] Which would require more specialized knowledge about technology or machines? [Longwall and shortwall mining involves significant knowledge of machinery. Mining in general requires knowledge of operating a variety of machinery.

To view some of the equipment used in mining see PA Department of Environmental Protection website page Mining Equipment [ ]. Images on this site include: draglines, hydraulic hoes, bulldozers, augers, rock trucks, longwall mining machine, etc.

Day Two

Preparation: Take ten index cards and a dark magic marker. Label each card a corresponding letter of the alphabet "A", "B", "C"…to "J."

1. Collect the edible building components students brought from home and prepare a working station. Tell the students that they are going to have the opportunity to create a landform to model the specific mining entrance or technique written on the coal card they were given yesterday. Have students get into their pairs established at the end of class yesterday.

2. Provide each pair with Student Worksheet 2-Edible Coal Mining Activity. This worksheet will help students prepare for their modeling activity. It requires students to identify the appropriate land formation, write their general plan of construction, and create "an architectural drawing" of their model (complete with labels).

3. When pairs have completed the worksheet, give each pair two paper plates. Have one student from the pair take a plate and retrieve several edible materials from the materials area. The second plate can be used as a base to build their model. Direct students to use the edible materials to create a land area to model their assigned mining entrance or method. (Activity Tip: Students should represent coal in their models. Chocolate chips could be an edible material to build their "coal" seam.)

4. As pairs finish, set up the "landforms" in an area that is easy to walk by and view for the students. If you have multiples of any of the formations, place them together (all the strip mines together, slope mines together, etc.). Label each model "A" through "J" with the index cards you have prepared. (You are labeling the models for class identification–which is the next activity.)

5. Ask students to take out Student Worksheet 1-Basics of Mining from yesterday. Disseminate Student Worksheet 3-Identifying the Creations. Have students read over both worksheets and walk around looking at each of the models. They should use Student Worksheet 1 as reference and Student Worksheet 3 to record the identity of each labeled model. Students are recording which type of mining entrance or procedure they believe is being shown. Make sure students look at the definitions of the types of mining before they record their choices.

6. After all of the students have had the chance to predict which model represented which type of mining, begin a discussion with the class:

  • Here is Model A. Which type do you believe this is? (Example: Students should guess strip mining.)

  • What clues made you think that? (the way the ground is being moved, how close the seam is to the top)

  • What is the land like around this area? (Typically flat)

  • Where is the coal seam located? (Near the top)

  • Who created this one? Where we correct? What was your thinking when you created this formation?

  • Repeat with each model using the fact cards to guide the discussion and review.

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