Click here for a printable version

Title:  Students in a Coal Mine or Power Plant
Level:  Primary/Middle
Time:  One half to one day


Students will list the steps or processes in converting coal to electricity.

Background Information:

  1. Coal is mined above or below ground.

  2. Coal is an important fuel source in electric generation.


  1. Notebooks and pencils.

  2. List of mines and power plants in your area.


  1. Contact the manager of operations for your local mine or power plant to arrange for field trips.  Explain how important it is for the children to see the mine and power plant to better understand and appreciate their size and the volume of resources they consume in order to produce the electricity that we have grown to assume will always be there when we need it.  Remember to follow your school system's procedures for field trips.

  2. Prior to the field trip, have your students begin keeping a journal of their experience.

  3. Ask them to describe in their journal what they think they will see on their tour.

  4.  Have them draw diagrams and illustrations to show how they think the coal is mined and how coal is used to generate electricity.

  5. Ask them to estimate how much coal they think the mine produces or the power plant burns daily.

  6. Also ask students to notice the landscape along the route to the mine or power plant.  For instance, did they notice railroad tracks?  Was there a waterway nearby?  Was the site located next to a metropolitan area or in the country?  Would this make a difference?  Did they observe reclamation?  What effect does the location of the mine or power plant have on the economy of the immediate area?

  7. After returning from the field trip, ask students to write in their journals again, answering the same question asked on the previous page.  Have them compare their pre-trip predictions with what they learned on the trip.

  8. Flip the lights in your classroom off and on a few times.  Ask the students to draw a map, which traces the energy used in the classroom lights back to the coal, which was burned to generate the electricity.

  9. Ask them to draw in the details they remember about the conversions of energy along the way:  ancient plants storing the sun's energy as plant material, coal formation, coal mining, coal burning to create steam to run generators, generators making electricity, the transmission lines, feeder stations along the way, the switch and the light bulbs in the classroom. 


Provided by American Coal Foundation