The Course

Science Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 202kB Jun22 08)
Folklore Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 169kB Jun22 08)

Course Design

Course Format


The science course, Coal in the Heart of Appalachia, is an interdisciplinary, integrated general studies course that is team-taught. Each of the two sections offered can have an enrollment of 25 students. We have just begun to utilize the talents of student preceptors during the class and in
curriculum development. The class meets for two two-hour periods per week with active, discovery-based activities that reinforce concepts and methodologies as part of each period. During the semester each of the four faculty members have responsibility for leading specific classes while the other faculty facilitate student learning during group work, as well as actively learn from the lead faculty.

The humanities course, Introduction to Folklore, is the introductory course in the university's minor in folklore studies. The course meets three hours weekly and also includes a field-based laboratory component. The two faculty members responsible for teaching the course have modified the approach to its content to emphasize the role that the coal industry has played in the nature of Appalachian culture. A significant component of the field research is for the students to acquire a wider understanding of the particular details of the coal industry that have impacted Appalachian life, especially as it relates to the history of the coal fields/coal towns.

Additional Folklore course information (Acrobat (PDF) 166kB Aug5 08)

Course Outline


1What is Appalachia?Team Building/Pre-assessment[end tr]

Coal Formation and Extraction (Geology)

2Rocks of WVSedimentary Rocks/Stratigraphy
3How Old is WVGeologic Time
4Coal FormationNorthern/Southern Coals & Fossils
5"Mountains" in WVTectonics and Erosion
6Mining Coal in WVDeep, Surface, and Mountain Top[end tr]
7Economic GeologyCoal Extraction
8Assessment: Civic EngagementCoal as Nonrenewable Resource

Coal and the Environment

9Mine Safety Combustion-Explosion[end tr]
10 Methane - an Alkane Exothermic/Endothermic Processes
11 Acid Mine Drainage pH, Acidity, Molecular view
12 What is Coal - Part I Kinds of Matter
13 What is Coal - Part II Elemental Analysis
14 Carbon and Structures Molecular Models and Properties
15 Assessment
Civic Engagement
Impacts of Mining and Burning Coal

Coal as Energy (Physics)

16 Energy in Systems and Bonds Energy
17 Are all Coals the Same? BTUs of Coal Grades
18 Coal as a Fossil Fuel Oil and Gas in WV
19 Energy Transformations Force, Work
20 Coal-fired Power plants Electricity
21 Alternative Energy Sources in WV Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Nuclear
22 Assessment
Civic Engagement
Alternative Energy Sources

Reclamation of Ecosystems (Biology)

23 Living Systems Ecosystems & Energy
24 Plant processes Photosynthesis-making more wood
25 Surface Mining Reclamation Wetlands, woodlands, grasslands
26 Mountain Top Removal/Valley Fill Watershed Issues [end tr]
27 Health Issues - Black Lung, Black Damp Union Success/Failure - Science

Teaching Goals and Philosophy

The faculty participants in this project have a shared sense of the best approach to learning and the importance of an interdisciplinary perspective. We are committed to an education that is well grounded in the liberal arts, and we strive to break down the artificial barrier that often exists between the sciences and the humanities. We foster collaboration among faculty from disparate disciplines.

We strive to establish and maintain an environment where we appropriately challenge students to assume responsibility for their learning. We believe that students learn better by doing (the way of science). We promote collaborative learning that is student-centered, activities-based, interdisciplinary in nature and hopefully, fun.

We have taken a constructivist approach in this learning community in the belief that people learn more effectively through the active creation of their own knowledge base. We want students to learn by a process that requires problem solving, the revelation of misconceptions and a reconstruction of a better informed conceptual foundation. We are attempting to take note of different learning styles through a variety of learning and student assessment modalities.

Class Assignments

Sample class assignment: The Great Muffin Mine (Acrobat (PDF) 179kB Jul28 08)

Sample class assignment: Energy, Structure & Combustion (Acrobat (PDF) 167kB Jul28 08)


Field Project: A Study of Personal and Family Folklife (see syllabus)

Response Paper to The Milk-Weed Ladies

Folklore research project rubric (Acrobat (PDF) 111kB Jul17 08)

Sample science poster project (Acrobat (PDF) 140kB Jul17 08)