Lesson Plan

Pennsylvania Fossil Fuel Distribution and Formation


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Big Ideas




In this lesson, students connect the distribution and formation of fossil fuels in Pennsylvania to Earth processes and geologic history. Students will:

  • analyze Pennsylvania fossil fuels maps.

  • investigate the Earth processes that form fossil fuels.

  • relate paleogeographic maps to the geologic history of Pennsylvania.

  • connect fossil-fuel forming processes to the geologic history of Pennsylvania.

Essential Questions

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  • Anthracite coal: Hard coal; the highest grade of coal.

  • Bituminous coal: A grade of coal between lignite and anthracite coal. It is referred to as soft coal.

  • Fuel: A material that can be converted to energy.

  • Crude oil: A natural oil formed by Earth processes from the remains of dead organisms.

  • Fossil fuel: Any carbon-containing fuel formed from the remains of prehistoric plants and animals. Coal, petroleum, and natural gas are examples of fossil fuel.

  • Hydrocarbon: An organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon.

  • Lignite: A very soft, dark brown coal comprised of compressed peat.

  • Natural gas: A mixture of hydrocarbon gases occurring naturally in the earth’s crust.

  • Paleogeographic map: A map that shows what Earth scientists think the surface of the Earth looked like in the geologic past.

  • Peat: A thick layer of plant remains in bogs and swamps.

  • Petroleum: Commonly used to refer to crude oil and natural gas.

  • Sedimentary rocks: A rock commonly formed from the compaction and cementation of sediments.

  • Sediments: Loose material deposited on the Earth’s surface by wind, water, ice, chemical precipitation, and living things.


90 minutes

Prerequisite Skills


http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/topogeo/maps/map10.pdf (Note: Students will also need to refer to this map in order to answer End-of-Unit Assessment question #10.)

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