Connect the Spheres with the Coal Cycleby: Renee Clary and James Wandersee

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Coal fueled the Industrial Revolution and, as a result, changed the course of human history. However, the geologic history of coal is much, much longer than that which is recorded by humans. In your classroom, the coal cycle can be used to trace the formation of this important economic resource from its plant origins, through its lithification, or rock-forming changes, to its final recovery as a fossil fuel. This article describes how you can explore the interconnectedness of the coal, carbon, hydrologic and rock cycles with a close look at how peat is transformed by pressure over time.

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Reviews (4)
  • on Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:25 AM

Coal is a very important resource for energy in the USA. The process of formation of coal to extraction is in itself a cycle which adds to a familiar cycle called the carbon cycle. This article advocates for students to understand the processes that form coal and then to extend it to the carbon cycle which is an earth cycle. Figure 5 in the article provides themes, resources, and cycles coal interacts with and provides a deeper foundation for understanding the connections.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Sun Mar 27, 2011 5:18 PM

The coal cycle is a subset of the carbon cycle. I found this article to be very interesting! It covers all aspects of the mineral coal; from its definition, formation, uses, and impact on today's environment. It is both factual and relevant. There are diagrams and charts that will assist in helping students develop concept mapping of coals formation. Connect the "Spheres with the Coal Cycle" should be an article that all teachers dealing with teaching anything related to coal should read.

Sue Garcia
Sue Garcia

  • on Mon Oct 13, 2014 7:26 PM

This article does not really present any lesson ideas, it focuses on topics and resources for using coal as the means to demonstrate how carbon can cycle through the earth's spheres (with some human help). Some of the resources might be more applicable to an environmental science class, since they focus on the results of coal mining on the land, air, and water, and not on the carbon itself. As a source of references, it is a varied and very useful resource for teachers at any level.

Tina Harris  (Fairmount, IN)
Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN)

  • on Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:38 PM

I found the ideas in this article fascinating, especially as I was trying to put together a novel approach to ESS for a high school Earth science class. This article takes a very multidisciplinary approach, and most of the ideas in the article could be adapted to older students as well. I plan to use some of the ideas, but the article, while being a font of creative ideas, does not include specific lesson plans.

Jennifer Rahn  (Delafield, WI)
Jennifer Rahn (Delafield, WI)

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