After Coal

After Coal Curriculum

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.

The curriculum has three objectives: 

  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.


  • 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