One of the fab things about blogging is I can find other teachers who has done something awesome and ask them to share their experiences on my blog. This post was written by Charitie Wright who participated in Coal Camp this summer.
Charitie is a fifth grade teacher from Tyler, Texas who helps me from time to time with Science Penguin stuff. You know how sometimes you can just tell a person is an awesome teacher? She’s one of those so it’s great to have her on my team!
Now, for Charitie’s experience…
Flip flops, shorts, and the beach? No thanks! I chose safety vests, hard hats, and a coal mine. Yes, a coal mine! I just spent a week at the Texas Wesmorland Coal Company mine in Jewett, TX for of Texas Mining and Reclamation Association’s (TMRA) teacher workshops. The best thing about this camp? It was totally FREE! That’s a magic word for a teacher.
I learned about the camp at the Convention for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) last fall. Over 600 teachers apply to attend one of the five camps offered by TMRA (three coal camps, industrial minerals camp, and uranium camp). Each camp holds around 15 teachers.
From the time we arrived at Texas Westmorland-Jewett Mine on Monday, we were greeted and treated like celebrities–total VIP treatment. In the classroom we learned about the mining industry, and the basic steps needed to plan and design a lignite mine. From permits to aquifers and soils to land reclamation, we learned more in one week about the mining industry than anyone could imagine.
The fieldwork we participated in was beyond words. We saw first hand how the coal was dug from the ground and transported to NRG’s Limestone Electric Generating Station next door to create electricity for the Houston area. We also were able to see reclaimed land that had been restored to better than its original condition. This part of the tour was absolutely breathtaking.
We ended the week with a mock public hearing in which each teacher was given a role to play. Whether a mining employee or a townsperson, we had to use the knowledge we learned throughout the week to play our part. This was our opportunity to show what we learned as well as have a little creative fun too!
This whole experience will help me in the classroom tremendously. I had the opportunity to see it, touch it, and experience it myself. I can now pass that knowledge I gained on to my students. I can explain to them that coal is more than just “a fossil fuel formed from dead plants”. From classifying matter to weathering, erosion, and deposition I learned so much more than I expected. All of the activities we participated in can be performed or modified to use with my students.
The Texas Mining and Reclamation Association (TMRA) is an industry trade association of approximately 100 state and national mining industry members representing several thousand employees. Texas Westmoreland Coal Company – Jewett Mine is a 35,000-acre surface mine complex located between Dallas and Houston. It currently operates four active pits. It supplies lignite (a grade of coal) under a lignite supply contract to the adjacent two-unit Limestone Electric Generating Station owned by NRG Texas. A low-cost, base-load power plant utilizing emission control technologies, Limestone was designed and built specifically to burn lignite from Jewett.