After Coal Curriculum

After Coal Curriculum

Developed by Matthew Mignogna, M.Ed, Penn State

This curriculum is designed for 11th or 12th grade Social Studies classes. This curriculum is inspired by After Coal, a documentary about how coal-dependent communities adapted to life after large amounts of coal jobs left the community.

Objective:

  1. Teach students to recognize resource-dependent communities, ways that dependence is created, and the problems resource-depletion causes to these communities;
  2. Show students how scholars and affected communities have attempted to address these problems (using provided frameworks for sustainable growth) and have students apply the same models to the two case studies in After Coal;
  3. Empower students to develop a sustainable plan for your local community in a hypothetical scenario where your community’s primary industry or employers go out of business. 

This curriculum is meant to be taught over the course of five days. The curriculum has a global focus, addressing communities in and outside of the United States.

Notes: 

  • This curriculum is organized into five lessons plans meant to be taught across five sessions of class. You can utilize this organization or choose to modify it however you see fit as long as the intended conceptual objectives are still achieved. 
  • This lesson plan has several lecture portions where the teacher provides information to the students. This information is only outlined in this document – in order to understand it to the point where they can effectively teach it to their students, teachers will need to access and read through a Teacher Key created specifically for this curriculum.  

This curriculum was designed by an individual who is not directly teaching the content to the students. I understand the problems and difficulties that sometimes accompany these situations, so if you have any questions or feedback (ranging from exuberant praise to vehement opposition) please feel free to reach out at cgsinfo@psu.edu

Day 1 - Resource Depletion Overview

Standards 

  1. Standard - 6.1.12.A
    Predict the long-term consequences of decisions made because of scarcity 
  2. Standard - 6.1.12.B
    Evaluate the economic reasoning behind a choice. Evaluate effective allocation of resources for the production of goods and services 
  3. Standard - 6.2.C.E
    Analyze the characteristics of economic expansion, recession, and depression

Opening Discussion: Resource Dependence and Community

(10–15 minutes) 

This discussion is meant to get students to start thinking about the concepts involved in this curriculum. Potential topics/questions:

  • Do you know what a resource-dependent community is?
  • What do you think would happen to a community if it lost its main sources of income or employment?
  • Is there a resource or system here in your community that has a large cultural and/or economic impact?
  • e.g. a particular business, industry, university, or common space?
  • What do you think might happen if that resource or system left your community? Consider how it would impact your community’s…
    • Economy
    • Culture
    • Schools
    • Perception (internal and external)
  • Is it possible for individuals and a community to adjust after losing such an impactful resource or system? How?

Lecture: Resource-Dependent Communities

(10–20 minutes)

Introduce students to some of the key terms and concepts utilized in the lesson. More detailed answers and explanations for these questions are this curriculum’s accompanying document, the Teacher Key

  • Introduce basics about After Coal, contextualizing the curriculum
  • Explaining what resource-dependent communities are and how those featured in the documentary had formed
    • Resource-Dependent Communities
    • South Wales & Central Appalachia
  • Explaining how coal jobs left the communities in After Coal
    • Automation of coal industry
    • Global, cheap competition
    • Decreased reliance on coal
  • Explaining the effects of the communities losing their primary resource
    • Job Loss
    • Poverty and associated issues
    • Population leaving community
    • Cultural impacts

Documentary Clips: Community Recovery Efforts

(15–25 minutes)

Show video clips from After Coal that explain how the communities began to recover after coal left. Feel free to show as many or as few of these as you’d like.

  • d.o.v.e. workshops (27:08–30:45)
  • Farming as a local business (37:35–39:45)
  • Community Music Projects (32:30–35:40 and/or 45:35–50:25)
  • Outdoor Recreation (35:45–37:05 and/or 39:50–41:40)

Encourage students to explore some of the websites of these local business when they return home. These websites can all be found on aftercoal.com:

In the teacher key there are guiding questions that go along with these websites, meant to help students think more critically about the communities’ post-dependency efforts.

Day 2 - Sustainability & Community Models

Standards

1. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.A
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole
2. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.
Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources
3. Standard - CC.8.6.11-12.H
Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research
4. Standard - 6.1.12.B
Evaluate the economic reasoning behind a choice. Evaluate effective allocation of resources for the production of goods and services
5. Standard - 6.2.C.E
Analyze the characteristics of economic expansion, recession, and depression

Group Discussion: Recap of Day One Information

(5–10 minutes)

After yesterday’s lesson, students should have now learned about the key parts of the documentary: 

  1. How these resource-dependent communities initially formed
  2. How the communities eventually declined
  3. What effects the removal of coal had on these communities
  4. How the communities took steps to build an identity after coal. 

Start off this lesson by having students discuss what they believe are the answers to these questions, and write their thoughts on the whiteboard/blackboard (this information will be used later in the days’ lesson). This serves as a recap of the previous lesson and will ease them into day two’s lesson. 

Lecture: Models for Sustainable Community Development and Recovery

(15–20 minutes)

Explain basics of sustainability and how they relate to resource-dependency. Introduce two models designed to promote sustainable development in rural, resource-dependent communities: the Community Capitals Framework and the 12-Step Recovery Program. Summarized information and explanations can be found on the Teacher Key document. 

  • Sustainability and Resource-Dependency
  • Community Development and Recovery Models
    • Community Capitals Framework
    • 12-Step Recovery Program 

NOTE: The point of this lecture is not to have students memorize the models perfectly. Rather, it is to introduce the models to the students so they have more concrete ways of conceptualizing and thinking about community recovery. 

Group Activity: Applying Models to the Documentary Communities

(remainder of class) 

Split class up into 4 groups. Each group will analyze the recovery efforts of one community by using one of the previously discussed models:

  • Group 1 – Community Capitals Framework, Wales
  • Group 2 – 12-Step Recovery Program, Wales
  • Group 3 – Community Capitals Framework, Appalachia
  • Group 4 – 12-Step Recovery Program, Appalachia 

Students should know or remember enough about what the communities did from the lesson yesterday, the review this morning, and the information preserved on the whiteboard from the morning’s review. The teacher will also pass around handouts (found in the Teacher Key) to each group with a summary of their recovery model on it as a reference. 

For the Community Capitals Framework, the groups can identify which community capitals they had, and which were most developed. For the 12-Step Recovery Program, the groups can identify which of the steps were attempted and if they were successful. Please note that the students do not have to find an example for each step or category in the models. The models are not meant to be perfect checklists, but rather ways of introducing students to other perspectives through which they can view the communities’ recovery actions. 

In the last 5 or 10 minutes of class, Groups 1+2 (Wales) and Groups 3+4 (Appalachia) will join together and share how they used their models to interpret the actions of their community. This way, students get to learn more about the other recovery model while still talking about the same community they had just analyzed.

Day 3 - Application to Your Community

Standards

  1. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.C
    Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain. 
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.G
    Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem. 
  3. Standard - CC.8.6.11-12.F
    Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. 
  4. Standard - CC.8.6.11-12.H
    Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. 
  5. Standard - 6.1.12.B
    Evaluate the economic reasoning behind a choice. Evaluate effective allocation of resources for the production of goods and services.

The last activity in this unit will draw on everything the students have done so far. Students will develop a sustainable plan for their community in the hypothetical scenario that an influential resource or system leaves their community.

Opening Discussion: Resources That Impact Your Specific Community

(10–15 minutes) 

Begin with a discussion about the ramifications of their community without its most influential resource or system. This will be similar to the discussions that occurred earlier in the unit, but by now the students’ conversations should be more sophisticated since they have been familiarized with the case studies from the documentary, the the two models (Community Capitals and 12-Step Recovery), case studies, and more.

Encourage them to draw on these learned examples and concepts as they determine what they think are some of the most influential resources in their community.

NOTE: Students may disagree on what they consider to be the most influential resource or system in their community. Disagreement is fine, the point of this final exercise isn’t to determine which resource or system is the most influential, but rather to develop a plan to address the leaving of any very influential resource or system.

Group Work: Developing a Sustainable Community Plan

(Remainder of class) 

Students break off into 4 or 5 groups (they can form their own groups or you can designate the groups) and begin creating  a sustainable, community-based plan in the event that an influential resource or system leaves their community. The specifics for what this plan should entail are in a project rubric found in the Teacher Key, which should be distributed to the students before they begin to develop their plans so that they understand what is expected of them.

Below I’ve included a summarized version of what the project should address:

  • Resource Identification
    • Identify a vital community resource
    • Explain why that resource is vital to the community 
  • Develop a Community Plan. Your plan should discuss…
    • How it addresses / solves issues caused by the resource leaving
    • If it’s a sustainable / long-term solution (and why)
    • How it is based on the concepts learned from classwork (case studies, models, etc.)
  •  Presentation & Submission
    • Students will present their plans at the end of their next class via an oral presentation. This should not take much time away from the creation of the plan; it should really just be a simple summary of what they created.
    • Though students will have some class time the next day to work on this, they should continue working on this plan for homework.
    • Students will also submit a written summary of their plan to the teacher after their presentation. As to not take up too much of their in-class plan-development time, this can be completed for homework after the presentation has occurred and submitted the following class.

Students do not need—and indeed, are not encouraged—to emulate any one model or case study to the letter. While these should be influencing the students’ decisions, the students should create their own unique plans.

Day 4 - Finishing Project & Presentation

Standards

  1. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.C
    Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.G
    Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem. 
  3. Standard - CC.8.6.11-12.F
    Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. 
  4. Standard - CC.8.6.11-12.H
    Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. 
  5. Standard - 6.1.12.B
    Evaluate the economic reasoning behind a choice. Evaluate effective allocation of resources for the production of goods and services.

Finish Up Project Work

(25–30 minutes)

Student groups should finish developing the sustainable community plan they began developing yesterday. If they do not finish 100%, that is okay – getting to present their ideas to the class is the most important goal. 

Community Plan Presentations & Submissions

(15–20 minutes)

Here the student groups will present their community plans to the class and teacher. This presentation is not meant to be too serious or intensive, but rather a simple explanation of the ideas found in the rubric:

  1. Why their identified resource is influential to their community
  2. The plan the group developed and how it would address the issues caused by the departure of an influential resource
  3. If the plan is a long-term / sustainable solution and the influences it drew from the studied cases and models

Students will also submit a written version of this plan to the teacher for grading before the unit ends. This can be done in class if a group finished with enough time, or it can be written up for homework if groups did not have enough time to work on it in class.

After all the presentations have ended, ask for students to comment on the aspects they liked the most in other groups’ plans.

Feedback

(remaining time)

Collect feedback from the students to gauge their thoughts about the unit:

  • What did they like? What could be improved?
  • What was easy? What was challenging?
  • Did you learn from the other students’ presentations?
  • What was analyzing the frameworks like? Have you ever done anything like that before?
  • Did this feel meaningful? Do you feel like you will use this knowledge in the future?
  • Would you be happy, sad, indifferent if this unit weren’t taught again next semester?

 

 

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