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West Virginia Mine Wars Museum launches free lessons plans

MATEWAN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum is pleased to announce the release of lesson plans for 4th, 8th, and 11th grades to help educators teach the history of the West Virginia Mine Wars in our state’s classrooms.

Playing out over the early decades of the last century, the Mine Wars were a violent struggle in southern West Virginia between forces aligned with miners and forces aligned with industry bosses. Miners fought against a corrupt mine guard system for the recognition of their union (the United Mine Workers of America) and for the rights of association and peaceful assembly.

With support from the West Virginia Humanities Council, and in alignment with West Virginia Department of Education curriculum guidelines, staff and volunteers with the museum created these lessons to teach this important history.

Museum staff then field tested the lessons with classes at Brookview Elementary in Boone County, Keyser Middle School in Mineral County, and Mingo Central High School in Mingo County this spring.

The test run of the lesson plans proved timely as the historic teachers strike in February, followed by similar strikes in other states, helped fuel interest and enthusiasm about the lesson plans. Students, teachers, and the public at large were curious about how Mine Wars history could help people better understand modern day events.

The lesson plans offer students the opportunity to learn about the hardships, diversity, and strong community ties of coal camp life. Students themselves step into the shoes of participants in the Mine Wars and grapple with major questions of the day.

In addition to introducing students to the who, what, when, and where of this important history, the lessons also seek to help students better understand the social history of coal camp life that included people born in West Virginia as well as recent immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe and large numbers of African Americans from the southern United States.

Students and teachers who participated in the pilot were very excited to learn about this long-forgotten episode in West Virginia’s history and one student was so excited that they declared, “I have never enjoyed a history class as much as I liked this one!”

The lessons are now available for free to educators on the Mine Wars Museum’s website, Teachers who have questions or who want to get involved in teaching this history can contact the museum’s lead educator, Jack Seitz at [email protected].

 Founded in 2015, the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, in the heart of historic Matewan, preserves and interprets artifacts and historical records of the local communities affected by the West Virginia Mine Wars, exploring historical events from multiple perspectives through the lives of ordinary people.


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