Coal Mining Activities for Students

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Coal mining is a controversial subject with a long history of both progress and disaster. Use these activities to engage your middle or high school students and help them understand the complexities of the coal mining world.

Coal Mining Activities

With a long history of both benefits and harm to society, the coal mining industry is complex and learning about it requires looking at multiple aspects of the industry. Grouping suggestions are incorporated into the activity descriptions, although they can each be adapted to use with individuals, partners or teams.

Coal Mining Comes to Town

  • Materials: articles about several coal mining towns, coal mining town scenarios

In this activity, students will learn more about a historic coal mining town and will work to analyze community scenarios. Begin by providing students with an overview of a few historic coal mining towns, including both the positives and negatives. For example, some townspeople take great pride in passing down this career from fathers to sons. Alternatively, some coal mining towns were devastated by coal mine tragedies. Ask students to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of coal mining in these towns.

Next, provide students with access to technology or brief articles to select and explore an additional town. They can then create a benefits and disadvantages chart based on this information. Lastly, provide students with three scenarios that ask them to determine whether coal mining would be advantageous or disadvantageous a town, based on the town's history, industry outlook, financial status, and environmental impacts. Place students into teams and ask them to discuss and reach a consensus on each scenario. Discuss the reasons behind their decisions.

Breaking News

  • Materials: example of a newscast, access to technology or articles about coal mining accidents and new technology or positive progress of the coal mining industry.

In this activity, student partners will create a newscast about major coal mining accidents and positive stories of coal mining progress, changes, and improvements (clean coal). Explain the purpose of the activity to your students. Then, provide students with a sample newscast reporting on a coal mining accident and/or an advanced technology being used to decrease the negative impact of coal mining. Discuss and list the components of the newscast. What must be included in their news report to make it brief, but also effective and informative?

Next, provide students with access to technology or articles about a variety of coal mining accidents over time, as well as new technologies and progress that has been made in the coal mining industry. Each student, partnership or team should report on one accident and one positive happening in coal mining. The newscasts should provide a brief overview of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the incident or new development. Allow students to share their newscasts by combining partners into teams or allowing for class presentations.

Safety Standards Press Release

  • Materials: coal mining safety standards (historical and current), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) history

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