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Lesson Plan: Mining

For Teachers - An Introduction:
This lesson is designed to introduce your students to historical research with primary sources. They will be presented with a set of six primary sources relating to an occupation in Minnesota history. Students will be provided with source data, online Activity questions to direct their study, and a worksheet designed to help them draw conclusions about the sources they have seen and about conducting primary source research in general. The sections of this site are not intended to be complete histories of the people or events involved, but rather serve as examples of what students might find in their own research efforts.

Why is mining important to Northern Minnesota:
The mining industry was one of the great contributors to the development of northern Monnesota. The huge deposits of iron ore discovered on the Mesabi Range generated dozens of mines, thousands of jobs, and a series of towns that sprang up one after another as the mining industry grew. Conventional underground mining was performed, as well as open-pit mining of the many ore deposits that were close to the surface. Though mining is a very dangerous industry, its success helped develop not only the communities on the range but also neighboring port cities on Lake Superior.

What You Will Need for This Lesson:

  • Access to a computer lab with Internet capability for at least one 40 minute class period.
  • Photocopies of the worksheet and a printed key (download both in the Student Materials section of the site).
  • If you have not already done so, we encourage you to explore the site for yourself ahead of time to become familiar with the navigation and features available to you and your students.

Skills Objectives:
The student will be able to:

  1. access primary sources online for research and study
  2. identify and summarize the different kinds of sources in the exercise
  3. identify advantages and disadvantages to using particular primary sources
  4. explain and synthesize source information to evaluate its usefulness and reliability

Using this Lesson in Your Classroom:
When the students are in the computer lab, lead them through the following sequence (you may wish to use an overhead projector screen):

  1. Go to the Communities web site.
  2. Click on Communities on the left hand side of the screen.
  3. Click on Hibbing.
  4. Click on Mining.
  5. Read the introductory material on Mining and click Enter.
  6. This will bring you to a screen with an excerpt from the novel Red Mesabi. This is the first source the students will encounter. Let them know that they can see a scanned image of the actual novel pages by clicking on the View button underneath the thumbnail image. Show students the Activity button and have them click on it to view questions and possible answers about each source.
  7. Once students have studied this passage and read the appropriate questions about it in the Activity section, direct them to the other sources that are accessible through the blue menu bar running across the top of the page. Each of these buttons will take them to another source to explore.
  8. When the students have completed studying each source and reading the questions for each item, they should be able to complete the worksheet they were given (see below).

What Your Students Will See In This Lesson Online:
Below is a listing of each source provided on the Mining section of the web site and a transcript of the activity questions for each source. (The questions are found on the site by clicking on the Activity button.)

Book 1
Click on the Book 1 button to open the primary source.
This is from a novel about the iron range.

    1.1) How is open-pit mining done?

    Possible Answer: Steam shovels are used to scoop ore directly out of the ground and load it onto trains.

    1.2) If open-pit mining is cheaper, why would they sometimes choose to use underground mining instead?

    Possible Answer: Sometimes there is so much dirt and rock between the surface and the ore deposits that it is cheaper to dig an underground tunnel to the ore.

    1.3) How do miners get to the ore underground?

    Possible Answer: They dig a tunnel called a shaft downward, then dig more tunnels out to where the ore is.

    1.4) How might your trust of this source be affected by knowing that it came from a fiction novel?

    Possible Answer: Since fictional stories are made up, it would be a good idea to compare this source to some factual ones. However, this description appears to be thorough and accurate.

Data 1

Click on the Data 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a table about the amount of ore that was mined and the cost of mining it.

    2.1) Has the amount of ore that's been mined gone up every year?

    Possible Answer: The "tonnage mined" column shows that in 1927 the amount went down, but then it went back up again for both open-pit and underground mining by 1929.

    2.2) Approximately how much more total ore was mined open-pit than underground?

    Possible Answer: More than three times as much ore was mined using the open-pit method --about 90 million more tons. The actual difference is 126, 478,819 - 37,113,134, or 89,365,685 tons.

    2.3) During the four years shown, was the "total average cost per ton" ever cheaper for underground mining than it was for open-pit?

    Possible Answer: No, it wasn't, although every year in the table the two costs got a little closer to each other.

    2.4) According to the "total average cost per ton" column of the table, about how much more expensive was underground mining than open-pit mining?

    Possible Answer: Underground mining is about twice as expensive.

Diagram 1
Click on the Diagram 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a diagram of an underground mine.

    3.1) What does the diagram tell you about how the mined ore was transported around the mines?

    Possible Answer: The diagram shows an ore cart at the base of the mine. Ore carts were like small train cars that moved on rails like a train.

    3.2) Describe a "raise" and what it appears to be used for in the diagram.

    Possible Answer: A raise was a tunnel that ran between the upper level and the lower level. Ore would be mined at the top of the raise, then dumped down to the ore cars at the bottom.

    3.3) What is the purpose of all of the logs at the top of the mine diagram?

    Possible Answer: The logs formed a protective roof that kept the ground overhead from caving in on the working miners. Logs were also used to support the lower tunnels.

    3.4) How does the picture on the left relate to the split picture on the right?

    Possible Answer: The drawing on the left is an end view of an underground mine tunnel; the two parts to the right form a side view of the same tunnel.

Photo 1
Click on the Photo 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a set of three photos of underground mining.

    4.1) In the middle photo, what do you think is being done by the man who looks like he's standing by a big box?

    Possible Answer: The big box is actually an ore car. He is at the lower level of the mine, and is dumping ore out of a chute at the bottom of a raise.

    4.2) Were these pictures all taken around the same years, and how can you tell?

    Possible Answer: No, they were not. One shows men digging by candlelight and wearing older style clothing than the work clothes being worn by the men in the other photos.

    4.3) How could all of the logs supporting the roof have gotten into the mine?

    Possible Answer: One of the first steps in underground mining was to dig a system of tunnels and build in supports to avoid cave-ins. Once the tunnles were dug, the logs could be brought in to build the supports.

    4.4) What kind of lighting would you expect to find in an underground mine?

    Possible Answer: Not very much because there is no natural light underground. In older days, workers had to carry candles into the complete blackness. In later years men wore helmets with lamps attached to them.

Photo 2
Click on the Photo 2 button to open the primary source.
This is a photo of a steam shovel.

    5.1) What are the advantages of using a steam shovel over using human workers?

    Possible Answer: It would take many people to equal the amount of power and speed that could be had by digging with a steam shovel.

    5.2) Fewer human diggers would be needed, but what other jobs might be created by using a steam shovel?

    Possible Answer: Workers would be needed to operate the shovel, to keep its boiler running, and to repair and maintain it. Steam shovels took away some jobs but created new ones.

    5.3) Would a steam shovel be of any use underground? Why or why not?

    Possible Answer: Steam shovels require too much space to move around underground, plus moving an 80-ton machine up and down the shafts would have been very difficult and dangerous, if not impossible.

    5.4) What effect would adding more steam shovels to an open-pit mine have?

    Possible Answer: The mine could produce more ore faster, but this would also require more people to work with the ore and would require trains to run more often to transport the ore.

Photo 3
Click on the Photo 3 button to open the primary source.
This is a photograph of a steam shovel loading ore cars at a mine.

    6.1) Is this a photograph of an underground mine?

    Possible Answer: The huge, dug-up area marks this as an open-pit mine; however it was possible for a mine to have both an open-pit region and an underground mine.

    6.2) What is the reason for having a railroad line run by a mine?

    Possible Answer: Trains were used to ship the tons of ore from the mines to the businesses that would extract the iron from the ore. Having them nearby lowered expenses.

    6.3) How could mines without a train track possibly transport the ore?

    Possible Answer: Animals could be used to pull carts, but this would be slow and expensive. A single ore car on a train could carry a ton of ore and millions of tons would be shipped in a year. Animals with carts, or even trucks could never carry that much ore.

Thought Questions for online Exploration:
During the online lesson, your students should complete the accompanying worksheet for this section. (Download from the student materials the pdf file containing the worksheet and key.) The questions for this worksheet are provided below. Since questions relating to specific sources are used during the online activity, the following worksheet questions are designed to help students synthesize and apply the material they have learned from the online activity and to analyze the kinds of information and the credibility of various types of primary sources when taken as a whole.

  1. Over the years, various kinds of technology improved mining. What kinds of technologies improved the digging process? What technology made transporting ore possible? What kinds of processes have changed very little?

  2. The mines of the Mesabi Range allowed dozens of towns like Hibbing to grow. How does having a mine nearby benefit a town like Hibbing? What problems might arise when a townÕs survival depends on a mine? What are some of the negative impacts mining has on the land?

  3. Though you've seen only a very small part of the complicated mining process, you should have an idea of how mining was done. What steps are taken to get iron ore out of the ground? Once the ore has been removed from the ground, what is the best method for transporting ore over the land and why? Once the ore had been carried away from the mines, where was it taken?

  4. Two methods of mining were used at Hibbing: open-pit mining, and underground mining. What are some of the similarities between these two methods? If you suddenly had a need for more ore, which method would you use and how would you change it to make it faster? What are some of the dangers in underground mining that open-pit miners wouldnÕt have to fear as much?

After your students have completed these questions, you may either collect them to be graded and discussed later or go over them in class as a discussion outline. When you downloaded the file with these questions you also downloaded a teacher's key for your use.

Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes Mining
You can also use the sources provided on this site to encourage higher-order thinking about a number of historical themes and issues that relate to mining. Below are possible activities and discussion starters to extend student application of the content material provided in the sources. The information provided in the sources about mining does not provide a comprehensive picture of these issues, but it can serve as an introduction to a theme or as supplementary material to enhance your work with a theme that is already part of your curriculum.

Possible Themes:
1. Industry and Transportation
2. Mining Throughout the World

Theme One:
Industry and Transportation

The student will be able to:

  1. discuss the relationship between the mines and the railroad that allowed each of them to grow at the same time.
  2. identify businesses in their home communities that rely on various modes of transportation.
Class Discussion:
In small groups, have students discuss the following questions. You may wish to provide these questions on an overhead transparency or supply a handout for student reference.

  • Why were the mines and the railroads not able to grow in northern Minnesota without each other?

  • What are some of the modes of transportation that exist today, and how are they used by various businesses?

  • In the future, what new businesses and modes of transportation might exist? How might they depend on each other?
Optional Activities:
  • Have students explore the history of the railroads. Have them take note of the different kinds of railroad cars that have been developed over time for trains to pull. Consider the businesses that used those cars, and the relationship between those businesses and the railroads. How did these industries depend on the railroads, and how do the railroads benefit from the industries?

  • Gather sets of maps that feature various modes of transportation including railroads, highways, airways, and shipping lanes. Have students locate large cities and note the relationship between the major lines of transportation and the cities. Students should identify resources and industries that some of the cities are noted for, and should consider how those industries affected which modes of transportation grew in the city. Are the modes of transportation used today the same way that they were fifty years ago?

  • Take a field trip to a local transport center like an airport, loading dock, or railroad yard. Observe the processes that are involved in loading, unloading, and shipping materials today. Consider the kinds of things that are transported, from people to packages, and the different ways that these commodities are handled. Note the wide range of jobs and skills that are involved in making the transportation industry run.

  • Ask students to consider how a trip to the grocery store or the local shopping mall might be different without modern methods of transportation. What products would not be as readily available? What products would they need to get from local farmers or vendors in order for them to be fresh? How might a longer transportation time affect when trends in fashion or decorating arrive in your community? What might be the differences in this situation between a small community and a large metropolitan area (that would be closer to the means of production for some items)?

Theme Two:
Mining throughout the World:

The student will be able to:

  1. identify other cities and countries that depend on the mining industry
  2. examine other kinds of materials that are mined, and identify where they can be found.
Class Discussion:
In small groups, have students discuss the following questions. You may wish to provide these questions on an overhead transparency or supply a handout for student reference.

  • What other mineral resources come from the ground?

  • Of these minerals and metals, which do you know is mined in the United States? Which are found somewhere else in the world and imported?

  • Which of these minerals and metals are considered valuable? What do you think makes a mineral valuable?

Optional activities:

  • Have your students research the mineral of their choice. They should present what they learn about the mineral or metal in report form, highlighting how the material is formed, where it is found, how it is gathered, when and how it was first used, and whether it is still used today.

  • Locate on maps other places in the world where iron is mined. Analyze the geography of the regions you find to see if there are similarities between them and the Mesabi Range. Examine the history of the region and see how closely its development parallels that of the Mesabi. Did it develop around the same time? Did transportation such as the railroads grow up with it, or were they already there? Is the area still mining iron, or have the supplies been exhausted?

  • Have a geologist or mineralogist come visit your classroom and discuss the conditions necessary for various mineral resources to form. Have the specialist describe the length of time involved so that your students will have a better understanding of how old some of these materials are. Using a map, point out some of the regions of the world that are particularly conducive to forming mineral deposits. If possible, have the specialist bring in samples of minerals and metals in both their crude and refined forms (smelted metals and polished gemstones).

  • Have students create models of mines for different minerals. They can create "papier mache" cross-sections of a mine for their chosen mineral and explain these to the class. Ask them to label the levels of their mine and the process required to get the minerals out of the mine. They may also want to research dangers that might be present in their kind of mining.

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