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Episode 2208 Lesson Plans: Combatting Coal Ash

Episode 2208 Lesson Plans: Combatting Coal Ash
August 31, 2022 Gary Abud Jr.

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of coal ash contamination in groundwater and the threat it poses to Lake Michigan and other areas of the Great Lakes waterways. Students will learn about the history of coal ash disposal, the discovery of coal ash in groundwater, and efforts to address the problem.

Lesson Objectives:

  • Know the historical significance of coal and its ash
  • Understand why coal ash poses an environmental threat to the Great Lakes
  • Be able to remove and separate multiple contaminants from a polluted water sample

View the entire lesson plan including teacher background information, worksheets and more below or download for free here.

Activity 1

This activity is a video discussion of a Great Lakes Now episode segment discussing the toxic coal ash. During the video they need to jot down four things they took away from it. 

Watch a Great Lakes Now Segment

Activity 2

The methods of disposing of coal ash into ash ponds and other storage means can be compromised by any environmental conditions resulting in system failures and catastrophic results. In this activity, students will use a Think Pair Square Protocol for discussing what they will read about this very topic.

Read About Extreme Weather

Activity 3

Removing coal ash from groundwater is crucial to prevent contamination. But just what is involved with removing contaminants from water? In this activity, students will explore the concept of separating different types of matter based the properties of each. This experiment can serve as a model for understanding how large-scale technologies are developed for purifying water.

Matter Separation Challenge

Activity 4

In this activity, students will explore and utilize the open source education resource called Understanding Global Change — from the University of California Berkeley — for digitally modeling the environmental impact of coal ash.

Modeling the Coal Ash Impact

Check out Great Lakes Now’s segments on coal ash featured in Episode 2208: Poisonous Ponds: Tackling Toxic Coal Ash on this month’s landing page. This episode is part of a collaboration between Great Lakes Now, the Energy News Network and students at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.


If you use this lesson or any of its activities with your learners, we’d love to hear about it! Contact us with any feedback or questions at: GreatLakesNow@DPTV.org

Find all the Great Lakes Now educational materials HERE.

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