Friday, September 17, 2010

Coal Mining Unit Study

In the month of August, our family became familiar with the coal mining industry. I felt it was important for two reasons:

1. It is part of our family's heritage. My grandfather was a coal miner, as well as many of my mother's uncles and cousins.

2. It is a huge industry in Pennsylvania. Although coal was associated with the steel industry when I was growing up, it is now a major component in the manufacture of electricity now.

Subject areas covered through our study:

History - (specifically Pennsylvania history) From its beginnings in the 1800's to the present day, there have been many changes with technology and mine safety.

Science - Geology - a study of rock and rock layering; the differences between anthricite coal and bituminous coal

Science - Chemistry - Coal burns! So does methane gas which can be commonly found in coal mines.

Geography - We looked at maps of the United States that mark where coal deposits are

Language Arts - We read many books from the library on the topic.

Language Arts, Living History - We interviewed a family member who was a foreman in the coal mines in Greene County and retired within recent years from the coal mines.

Uncle David worked the coal mines since 1969 and said that he would still be in the mines if he could be. He retired a few years ago for medical reasons.

Show and tell - Here Uncle David is showing us his belt and all the gadgets on it and his lunch pail. I was surprised that they still use these types of pails today for their lunches. They seem so old-fashioned, but there is a purpose for their design.

Language Arts, Living History - We are still waiting to interview the pastor from our church who grew up in a coal mining camp.

Resources used:

Books - there are way more books out there than what I have listed here. These are just our 3 favorites.

This book is a favorite. It gives first hand accounts of miner's experiences in the mines.

Even though this is a Christmas book, it has lots of good information in it. Very Charlotte Mason.

Another living book as it is an account of everything that happened in the mine and is told by the miners themselves. Since it is told by the miners, I would advise parents to review the book first. There is some swearing in it. I read it out loud to my family and "edited" the swear words.

Field trips
Quecreek Mine, Somerset, Pa
In 2005, 9 miners were trapped underground for 77 hours. Miraculously, they all made it out alive. The site where the men were brought out of the earth has a monument of the event as well as a visitor's center with lots of information about the incident and the coal mining industry in general.

Tour Ed Mine, Tarentum, Pa
This was a great hands-on field trip that took us 1/2 mile underground into an old mine. Once inside, we walked through time as we explored coal mining in it's earliest days through the technological changes over about 100 years. Outside of the mine is a museum with artifacts from the company store and

King Coal Festival, Carmichaels, Pa
Here, we were able to see the Coal parade that included many floats about the history of coal as well as all the regular local marching bands. At the end of the parade was the Bitumonous Coal Queen and her court. Afterward, we went to the local firehall where there were displays of artifacts from the coal industry.

At the King Coal Festival, we had the opportunity to talk with old coal miners. The man in the blue shirt started in the coal mine when he was 12 years old back in 1939. He was full of information and took the time to explain the artifacts and share his experiences with us.

Online resources

Oracle Thinkquest - Mining Fun: This website is loaded with coloring pages, games and activities that went well with our study.

American Coal Foundation - This resource helped us to get into the science of coal.