“This year I wanted to make the learning even more linked to the community of Knoxville. Coal mining has been such a huge part of the history to those living in Marion County, I wanted to make them aware of how it affects not only our landscape but out soil and water quality,” Finnegan added.
She has welcomed those with knowledge of this history to speak to her class. In talking with students, Finnegan said most of them were unaware of Marion County’s coal mining history, and the county’s place in the history of the industry in Iowa.
“In fact, most parents were surprised to learn this information too!” Finnegan said. “This is a small piece of history that is being lost but can be a great springboard for learning about the ecology of our area.”
Her students wrote thank you letters to those who helped lead them on the tours. Some of them were surprised that cow droppings make good fertilizer, while others made their own discoveries.
“I learned a lot about terraces and how they protect the land from erosion,” Megan Moore wrote. “Thanks again for teaching us about all the things that coal mining has done and what you guys are doing to make it look like nothing happened and making the land useable again.”
“Learning about the endangered plants and animals was interesting, too,” Lili Hartley wrote. “The field trip was very fun and interesting!”
“I thought the most interesting part of the field trip is when we got to test the water with the strips,” Michael Nichols wrote.
The students, back in the classroom, have since moved on to the study of the respiratory system. Finnegan said a great deal of learning has taken place this year, in and out of the classroom.
“To sum it all up, I hope that students have a greater understanding of how an area’s history and geology can affect the quality of the water and soil and that both the small and big things that students do can have a great impact to both destroy or improve the quality of life for other organisms and themselves where ever life may take them in their future,” she said.