The four-day conference, convened by the Illinois Office of Coal Development, included lectures, tours and hands-on activities correlated to the Illinois Learning Standards. The presenters were experts in their fields and conveyed their professional interest to the teachers. The break-out session topics gave the teachers comprehensive information on coal formation/geology, the economics of coal, coal to electricity, carbon sequestration and other clean coal technologies, careers in mining, coal mine permitting and environmental protection, past and present surface mining and reclamation requirements, underground mining, mine safety/ventilation, handling and use of coal combustion byproducts, and state science
The conference opened with Warren Ribley, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, speaking to the teachers of the important but environmentally complex role coal plays in the energy profile of Illinois and the United States.
On the second day of the conference, the teachers boarded four buses for group tours, visiting an underground mine, a surface mine and a power plant using clean coal technology and fueled by Illinois coal.
On Thursday, Christopher Meister, Executive Director of the Illinois Finance Authority, spoke to the teachers about how his organization is poised to assist with financing for expanded renewable energy production, energy efficiency and coal projects Thursday evening, former coal miner Evan Sink gave a photo presentation of coal mining techniques from the Turn of the Century through the 1970s.
Teachers spent part of their final day at the conference touring the Rend Lake College Coal Miner Training Center, which provides training for new coal miners, refresher training for experienced miners and fire fighting and mine rescue training for mine rescue teams. The facility includes a 10,000-square-foot simulated mine and a live fire training facility.
During the learning standards lesson sessions that followed, attendees received copies of OCD’s coal curriculum, “From the Coal Mines to the Power Lines”. The curriculum, developed by Northern Illinois University, covers the rich history of coal and coal mining, its role in the Illinois economy and the impact of mining and clean coal technology on the environment.
The teacher facilitators, through hands-on activities, demonstrated how the coal curriculum could be incorporated into teaching plans. By including coal education in their classrooms, teachers bring to their students and communities an awareness of one of the state’s greatest natural resources and the positive role Illinois coal plays in day-to-day lives and the economy of the state.
As an Authorized Provider of Professional Development through the Illinois State Board of Education, the Office of Coal Development offered 28 Continuing Professional Development Units to teachers who attended all the conference sessions.
At the close of the conference, teacher evaluations were completed. The following are some highlights: