Exploring Coal

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Objective

SWBAT explain how coal mining technology has an impact on the economic and environmental viability of an energy resource.

Big Idea

How do technological advances effect the future of coal? How can the USA balance the economic importance of coal with the environmental costs?

Engage

30 minutes

Illinois is a big coal state and our economy relies on coal energy. My strategy is to have students read from a local pro-coal source, Illinois Coal Association.  Students read several sections highlighting the economic and environmental impact in Illinois of coal. I begin the lesson by projecting the site on the board. I explain that our source is the Illinois Coal Association. I ask them to consider the source and explain what they think the source will say about coals. The students explain how they will be very pro on coal and may diminish the disadvantagles of coal. I explain that it is important to consider the writer of a source because it may help you determine how effective the source may be.

I put the students in groups of two. My first step is a vocabulary dig. Students go to their computers and read the short articles. Students find words they think someone might not know. I add the words to my Word Wall and as a class we define the words. The Word Wall is a reference for later reading and writing. I like to use student groups because it offers an opportunity for social learning. As the two students explore the material, they will both look for answers and help one another. Each student takes notes in individual notebooks that will be assessed individually.

To encourage independent student work, I offer a Coal in Illinois worksheet designed with links and assessment questions. This is especially effective when students read from a computer screen. Students can not make annotations and I want them to record learning. I ask specific questions under each tab on the site and use a One Sentence Summary strategy.  I give the students sentence starters and ask them to finish the sentences with quotes/statistics from the tabs. As students work, I look at the answers. I scaffold student understanding and I make stars on correct answers to provide immediate feedback.

Example

  • Under the tab COAL read, Coal in the Spotlight:Write a one sentence summary using the sentence starter, “Coal so important to the economy because…” Use a short quote from the article to help answer your question. 
  •  Under the tab COAL MINING read three sections, Surface Mining, Underground Mining, and Land Reclamation.Answer the following sentence starter, “Illinois coal producers work to reclaim land because……” Use a quote from the article to help answer your question.
  • Under the tab Mainstay of the Economy answer the questionWhat would happen if coal mining were illegal in Illinois? Use a statistic from the article to answer your question. 

My intention is to promote student understanding of how a local coal organization describes the importance of coal to our economy. I like to use the sentence starters on this activity because the sentence starters promote one sentence summary writing and using evidence from reading. Not all ideas are the same in the Student Samples: Illinois Coal.  

 

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.

RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain- specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6–8 texts and topics.

SP8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information - Critically read scientific texts adapted for classroom use to determine the central ideas and/or obtain scientific and/or technical information to describe patterns in and/or evidence about the natural and designed world(s).

Explore

45 minutes

Coal Mining with Cookies

My strategy is to offer a fun investigation of coal mining. My strategy is to offer the students an opportunity to discover how technology has changed the way we mine for coal and other resources. 

To prepare for this investigation, I buy several different types of chocolate chip cookies. My purpose is to help students understand how coal resources will be different in different states because of the history of geoscience processes in different areas of the country.  The types of coal mined in each state represent the different chocolate chips. In addition, my purpose is to investigate how technology has improved the abundance of natural resources. 

I start the investigation with my coal maps used in my lesson Science Literacy: Coal. By examining the map, students can determine where the coal resources are located. Using white lab boards for student answer, I ask the question, "Why are there differences in the areas coal was formed?" I review our discussion about the formation of fossil fuels. I dig deeper in science concepts by asking, "Why would there be more fossil fuels? What is special about fossil fuels?" I using questioning techniques to promote an understanding that because coal comes from living organisms under pressure and heat for millions of year. The conditions for the formation of coal are very specific. These conditions were not a part of the geoscience history everywhere in the country. 

I show students the materials. I ask students, "What should we investigate?" Typically students will say, "Let's mine for coal and then eat it!" I explain, "That's a great idea but what are we testing?" I point out the toothpicks and other tools. I ask "What do you think these will be used for?" "Why do you think they are different?"  "Why would the tools change?" "Do you think the tools will increase the amount we can mine or decrease?" "What can we test?"

My questioning strategy promotes an understanding of the process scientists go through to test variables. I hand out my Coal Lab Template Students complete the worksheet by addressing the problem, hypothesis, independent and dependent variables, and the students design the data table. I help the students through this process by a strategy of group thinking. I ask "What do you think should be our problem?" With lap white boards, students generate problem ideas and as a class we determine the best idea. Investigation Problem: Beginning becomes more scientific as the students share and we get the testable Investigation Problem: Used.

Students create their hypothesis individually or as a table. I ask "What steps do we need to follow?" Using the lab white boards, students write ideas and the class choose the best idea. As a class we discuss the variables and we fill in the data table. 

Students use the tools to get the "coal" chocolate chips, etc. I give them Dixie cups to collect the “coal” and ask that they not eat the coal until the mining is done. Typically the students determine the time as they design the procedure. See my Reflection on how to help students design an investigation. 

As students mine, they count and record the chips. Each child at the table gets one cookie to mine. They take before and after pictures of the cookies and collect the chocolate chips. I also ask students to divide the cookie into 4 equal parts to test each of the four tools. We keep whole-class data on a shared document by reporting how many chips are mined. When all the data is collected, students eat the cookies. 

After the investigation, students go back to the coal maps and discuss the states or region each cookie represents.

 

RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

SP3 Planning and Carrying Out Investigations - Plan an investigation individually and collaboratively, and in the design: identify independent and dependent variables and controls, what tools are needed to do the gathering, how measurements will be recorded, and how many data are needed to support a claim.

SP3 Planning and Carrying Out Investigations - Conduct an investigation and/or evaluate and/or revise the experimental design to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of the investigation.

Explain

15 minutes

Now it is time to mine. Students use the toothpicks, straws, or spears to get the "coal", chocolate chips. I give them Dixie cups to collect the “coal” and ask that they not eat the coal until the mining is done.  See my Reflection on how to help students design an investigation. 

As students mine, they count and record the chips. Each child at the table gets one cookie to mine.  They are Mining for Chocolate!  I ask students to divide the cookie into 4 parts to test each of the tools and have one forth left to eat.  We keep whole-class data on a shared document by reporting how many chips are mined. When all the data is collected, students eat the cookies. The Student Samples below show how the students designed the investigation in different but effective manners. 

On the back of the template there are two sub headings. The first is Observations: Qualitative. I ask students to look at their data and find patterns. Student record five patterns they noticed and use the patterns to complete the next section, the conclusion. Before writing the conclusion, students go back to the coal maps to discuss the state or region each cookie represents.

 

SP6 Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions - Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to construct, revise and/or use an explanation for real-world phenomena, examples, or events.

RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

MS-ESS-3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

Crosscutting Ideas: Cause and Effect

Evaluate

15 minutes

The template includes an investigation conclusion. My strategy is summary writing. I ask students to write a 3-5 sentence summary answering the question, "How has technology had an effect on the extraction of coal in Illinois?" They must use data from their experiment to support their conclusion. In addition, they are required to use Word Wall Words,  vocabulary words determined from the Engage Section of the lesson. I also want to challenge their writing skills and offer the bonus, "Include real life environmental effects." My intention is to have students generalize their experiment data to real life  situations. I make this a bonus because this is very difficult for emerging writers. These students are still trying to figure out how to express the concrete ideas with a real life examples. I've narrated a short movie below in an effort to show how the students wrote the conclusions differently. 

SP6 Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions - Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to construct, revise and/or use an explanation for real-world phenomena, examples, or events.

RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

Crosscutting Ideas: Cause and Effect