Northeastern Section (45th Annual) and Southeastern Section (59th Annual) Joint Meeting (13-16 March 2010)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-4:15 PM


BEMBENIC, Meredith A.1, ENDRESS, Chira A.2, HARTWELL, Bradley J.1, GUERTIN, Laura3 and FURMAN, Tanya4, (1)Energy and Mineral Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, (2)Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16801, (3)Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine, 25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063, (4)Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, 333 Deike Building, University Park, PA 16802,

As the United States strives for energy independence with an emphasis on cleaner burning fuels, students need to be scientifically literate about these energy and environmental issues in order to make informed decisions about the future. With coal currently providing over 50% of our country’s electricity, the importance of understanding this natural and regionally relevant resource becomes even more essential. We report on a weeklong coal unit developed to be adaptable to instructors’ interests and changing curricula. The unit satisfies standards of learning in earth science, environment, and social studies, and has been classroom-tested in grades 7-10 with students of all ability levels. The learning unit combines use of several maps, short videos, data (represented in charts, tables and graphs), and guided questions that require students to use their observation, critical thinking, and map/data interpretation skills. Students are introduced to the processes (i.e., coalification) and the relevant paleoenvironmental conditions contributing to coal formation, which are demonstrated as a culminating example of both the rock cycle and plate tectonics. Students discover the regional significance and resource-based rationale of the dominant domestic energy sources for each state, focusing on hydropower, nuclear, natural gas as well as coal. The influence of coal on society is emphasized through a gallery walk activity that solicits students’ opinions on several related topics including history of the industry in Pennsylvania, environmental and health impacts of mining and burning, products and chemicals, and large-scale economics. Alternative and clean coal technologies are introduced to the students through an independent project. All materials for this unit are available upon request and at Pre- and post-unit assessment questions are provided to gauge students’ understanding after completion of the activity.