Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students explore the impact of coal mining on the landscape. They begin by looking at where coal comes from and how we use it. They then use a chocolate biscuit to simulate coal mining and to introduce concepts of environmental impact and non-renewable resources.

We’ve taken elements of this lesson and adapted them for remote learning. You can find this activity here.

Essential questions:

  • What is coal?
  • Where do we get coal from?
  • How can mining affect the natural environment?
  • How is mining planned so that it limits any environmental impacts?

21st century skills:

choc chip biscuit skills

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 5 Mathematics

  • Choose appropriate units of measurement for length, area, volume, capacity and mass (ACMMG108)
  • List outcomes of chance experiments involving equally likely outcomes and represent probabilities of those outcomes using fractions (ACMSP116)

Year 5 Geography

  • The environmental and human influences on the location and characteristics of a place and the management of spaces within them (ACHASSK113)

Year 6 Mathematics

  • Compare observed frequencies across experiments with expected frequencies (ACMSP146)

Year 6 Science

  • Energy from a variety of sources can be used to generate electricity (ACSSU219)

Syllabus Outcomes: ST3-6PWMA3-10MG, MA3-11MG, MA3-12MG, MA3-19SP, MA3-9MG, MA3‑1WM, MA3‑2WM, MA3‑3WM

Relevant parts of Year 5 Mathematics achievement standards: Students use appropriate units of measurement for length, area, volume, capacity and mass, and list outcomes of chance experiments with equally likely outcomes.

Relevant parts of Year 5 Geography achievement standards: Students identify and describe the interconnections between people and the human and environmental characteristics of places and identify the effects of these interconnections on the characteristics of places and environments.

Relevant parts of Year 6 Mathematics achievement standards: Students compare observed and expected frequencies.

Relevant parts of Year 6 Science achievement standards: Students describe how energy can be transformed from one form to another when generating electricity.

Topic: Energy

Time required: 60 mins

Level of teacher scaffolding: Lead students through experiment and engage students in a discussion to answer closing questions.

Resources required: 2 different kinds of chocolate chip biscuits for each student, 2 toothpicks, 2 napkins, paper and pens, printed copy of Student Worksheet for each student.

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities.

Homework and extension opportunities: Extension opportunity included.

Keywords: Energy, mining, resources, non-renewable.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

coal1-heroTeacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: Students understand what coal is, why we use it and how it is extracted. They recognise that the mining of coal can have environmental impacts, and they begin to understand that coal mining can be planned in ways that can minimise its environmental impact.

Teacher content information: Energy is the lifeblood of our modern life. It powers our industry, it fuels our cars, and charges our iPhones. The problem is that much of our energy is produced by burning fossil fuels like coal, and this has a range of environmental, social and economic impacts, one being the emission of greenhouse gases.

Coal is a non-renewable resource, meaning it can only be extracted once from the earth and can’t be readily replaced by natural means (renewable resources are those that can be readily replenished naturally - such as wind or sunshine). The coal extraction process - mining - can also cause significant environmental damage. While mining practices have im

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: How deep can we mine?

Your job is to compare two different land sites (chocolate biscuits) that contain coal and mine the coal from these sites. You will mine your land (your two biscuits) looking for coal (chocolate chips) with the toothpicks.  As a class, decide which biscuits will be mine 'site A' and which will be mine 'site' B. Label your biscuits as site A or B.

Let's get started

1. Trace the outline of site A on a piece of paper. Map the location of the chocolate chips that you can see onto the outline of site.

2. Around each of your coal mines (your biscuits) draw a forest and a creek and any other natural features you’d like to include (eg. animals).

3. Count the pieces of coal on the surface of your site. Record this number on the chart.

4. Using your mining equipment, carefully mine as many pieces of coal from the cookie as you can. Set aside the coal in a pile.

5. Count the number of pieces of coal mined from your site. Record the number on your ch

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