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Bringing Mining and Environmental Engineering to Pre-college Classrooms

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Curriculum Exchange

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.292.1 - 26.292.2



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Paper Authors


Nicholas Robert Stambach Colorado School of Mines

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Nicholas Stambach is currently a Ph.D graduate student in the Chemistry Department at the Colorado School at Mines. Nicholas is the graduate student manager of the Trefny Institute for Educational Innovation at Mines. As part of the Trefny Institute, Nicholas has worked with elementary and middle school teachers in teaching science and engineering lessons. Prior to attending graduate school, Nicholas taught high school chemistry for 4 years. Nicholas has a BA in chemistry (2007) and an MA in education (2008) from Virginia Tech.

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Barbara M. Moskal Colorado School of Mines

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Dr. Barbara Moskal is a Professor of Applied Mathematics and Statistics and the Director of the Trefny Institute for Educational Innovation at the Colorado School of Mines. She is also a senior associate editor of the Journal for Engineering Education. Her research interests includes: K-12 outreach, STEM education, measurement, assessment, outreach, and diversity.

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Bringing Mining and Environmental Engineering to PreCollege Classrooms (Curriculum Exchange)The lesson plan that is proposed for presentation here was created as part of a larger,kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12), outreach program. The program begins with a twoweek workshop were graduate students drawn from science and engineering collaborate with K-12 teachers. Workshop presenters are university professors who offer background knowledge,research experience and hands-on activities designed for the K-12 classroom. During theacademic year, graduate students work cooperatively with K-12 teachers to instruct lessons, leadhands-activities, and work with small groups of K-12 students. The graduate student academicyear support ensures that engineering curriculum is introduced in the K-12 classroom. More than100 engineering lesson plans have been developed and tested as part of this program in the K-12classroom.The lesson that is proposed for presentation here has been tested in the 6-8th grade classroom.Using cookie extraction, 6-8th grade students learn about mining and environmental engineering,areas in which most pre-college students have little exposure. In order to make this lessonrelevant to 6-8th grade instruction, this lesson plan includes a strong emphasis on mathematics.The lesson begins with a discussion of coal: i) what it is used for?, ii) why is it not renewable asan energy resource?, iii) where it can be found? iv) what methods are used for extraction? and v)what is land reclamation? After this discussion, the students are given a cookie and are instructedto draw a circle around the cookie on grid paper and “mine” for chocolate chips. Students selecta cookie and calculate land acquisition cost based on predefined cookie expense. Next, thestudents purchase tools—tooth picks, paper clips, etc. During the mining process, students recordtheir chocolate chip extraction rate and track their costs to profit ratio.After mining, penalty fees are assessed for crumbs outside of the reclamation area (the originalcircle) and are added to the students’ expenses (mimicking the importance of the reclamationprocess). At the end of the activity, students calculate their costs (price of the cookie, materials,labor and reclamation penalty) and profits (number of chocolate chips mined) to determine theirnet profit. Through this lesson, students learn about coal, mining, environmental engineeringand mathematics.

Stambach, N. R., & Moskal, B. M. (2015, June), Bringing Mining and Environmental Engineering to Pre-college Classrooms Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23631

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