administration student task rubric student work technical quality
Old Solutions - New Solutions
Administration Procedures
Grades 9-12 Performance Task
Contributed by: Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)


The students will read and analyze text, using the information to evaluate the environmental and economic impacts of a large-scale project.

Students will read descriptions of a mining company's land-reclamation project. They will share information to analyze the impact of the project. Individually, they will answer questions on environmental and economic issues.

This task is designed to take students approximately 45 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Environmental Science
Earth Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Natural resources/Environmental quality

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations and solve new problems

National Science Education Standards:

12 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 9-12
1.4 Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence. Student inquiries should culminate in formulating an explanation or model. Models should be physical, conceptual, and mathematical. In the process of answering the questions, the students should engage in discussions and arguments that result in the revision of their explanations. These discussions should be based on scientific knowledge, the use of logic, and evidence from their investigation.

1.6 Communicate and defend a scientific argument. Students in school science programs should develop the abilities associated with accurate and effective communication. These include writing and following procedures, expressing concepts, reviewing information, summarizing data, using language appropriately, developing diagrams and charts, explaining statistical analysis, speaking clearly and logically, constructing a reasoned argument, and responding appropriately to critical comments.

12 F SPSP 3: Natural resources: Grades 9-12
3.1  Human populations use resources in the environment in order to maintain and improve their existence. Natural resources have been and will continue to be used to maintain human populations.

3.2 The earth does not have infinite resources; increasing human consumption places severe stress on the natural processes that renew some resources, and it depletes those resources that cannot be renewed.

12 F SPSP 4: Environmental quality: Grades 9-12
4.3 Many factors influence environmental quality. Factors that students might investigate include population growth, resource use, population distribution, overconsumption, the capacity of technology to solve problems, poverty, the role of economic, political, and religious views, and different ways human s view the earth.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 45-50 minutes to complete.

Students will be working in groups of 3 - 5 for the experiment/activity part of this exercise.

Students work together for up to 30 minutes. They are instructed to notify you when finished with the group work, and then to go on to the individual work beginning with question #2. If students are still working together 30 minutes after the testing begins, instruct them to cease their group work and begin individual work. At this point, they may no longer talk. Whether or not they are just beginning their individual work, remind students that they now have about 15-20 minutes to complete the individual activity.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. Group assignments should be made in advance. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for Old Problems--New Solutions:

At this station students should have:
One student response form for each student
One Old Problems--New Solutions kit for each group. Each kit contains:
- one set of photographs (see Advance Preparation, below)
- one Information Sheet
- one copy of "Martiki Coal Corporation Nomination for 1990 Reclamation Award"
- three highlighters
- one calculator for each student
- sharpened pencils

Advance Preparation:

Photographs which originally were provided with this task by the task developers will have to be provided by the teacher. See "Martiki Coal Corporation Nomination for 1990 Reclamation Award" reading to determine appropriate photographs of the setting(s) which could be used with this task.

You may want to adapt the suggested times for both the group work and subsequent individual student work for this task. In order to allow sufficient time for individual students to provide thoughtful and thorough answers to questions 2 and 3, the group work time can be shortened to about 20 minutes rather than the suggested time of 30 minutes.


  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.

TASK: S/SS1-Old Problem - New Solutions
Grade 12



I.  Setting

The Martiki Mine lies in the Appalachian foothills of Eastern Kentucky in the watershed of the Big Sandy River. The mine and its adjacent area are in southeastern Martin County. The mine is located in rugged mountain terrain with narrow valley floors and steeply pitching mountain grades. The region's climate is humid, with average temperatures of 55o and yearly average precipitation of 43 inches.

The use of land in this portion of Eastern Kentucky is constrained by the steep topography. Individuals and entire communities are forced to live along river and stream floodplains. Despite the cyclical hazard of high water, river floodplains have historically provided the only level land suitable for building. The primary land uses in Martin County are coal mining and forestry. Most of the original forests in the area were cut in the early 1900's; existing timber consists primarily of second and third growth. Over half of the countyÍs land surface is controlled by Pocahontas Development Corporation (Pocahontas), a subsidiary of Norfolk-Southern Railway. Pocahontas actively leases the timber and coal resources for processing and production.

The county's population level has been extremely volatile over the past several decades; now the county is sparsely inhabited. The volatility of the population is due primarily to the cyclical nature of the coal industry. President Lyndon Johnson initiated his "War on Poverty" in Martin County at a time (mid 1960's) when the coal industry was depressed. Significant population growth has taken place in the county since that time; however, the welfare of the county is directly related to the profitability of the coal industry.

Four coal seams are being mined at Martiki. The overburden and interburden material is primarily sandstone with thin interbedded siltstones and sandy shales. These parent materials are highly erodable, resulting in the rugged terrain within the mine and adjacent area. Relief averages 600-700 feet with ridges at approximately 1400 feet and valleys at 700 feet above mean sea level. The ridges are narrow with steep sideslopes (often 30 degrees and steeper).

The Martiki mine and adjacent area are drained by Wolf Creek, a tributary to the Big Sandy River Basin. Acid mine drainage and elevated metals in surface and ground water have not been detected and are not expected due to the chemical properties of the overburden and coal seams. Primary groundwater sources are associated with the valley floors, located some 300 to 400 feet below the lowest seam being mined. Many local groundwater sources are inadequate for normal domestic use.

Existing topsoils have been tested and found inadequate. They are generally thin, have a low nutrient level, have poor-moisture holding capability, and are slightly acidic. Martiki uses an alternate topsoil generated from overburden materials.

Most of the existing vegetation (pre-mined) consists of upland forest hardwoods, including tulip poplar, sugar maple, beech, white oak, other oaks, and hickory. The location and growing patterns of this vegetation are a function of degree or slope, direction in which slope is facing, soil depth, previous timbering operations, and location of the mountain. The logging industry has repeatedly harvested the area of its best trees and timbering continues today.

Mining Operations

Martiki Coal Corporation (Martiki) a subsidiary of MAPCO Coal Inc. Began production in 1974 and has operated continually since that time. Martiki acquired the current coal reserves (approximately 18,000 acres) from Pocahontas.

Martiki uses the mountaintop removal process (MTR) as well as several other metods of surface mining in a series of overlapping phases. The collective result is the entire removal of the coal seams running through the upper part of the mountain by removing all the overburden and creating a gently rolling contour with no highwall remaining. Martiki has pioneered this type of mining in Appalachia; MTR is a complex and expensive process.

TASK: S/SS1-Old Problem - New Solutions
Grade 12



II.  Reclamation

Reclamation of a particular area begins when its mining and filling have been completed. Bulldozers reclaim outslopes as well as hollow and valley fills of the mountaintop bench. These slopes are reclaimed by grading to a maximum 2:1 grade with adequate terracing and benching to control drainage and prevent erosion. Interior portions are graded to a flat to moderate slope, except where drainage is directed off the top of the plateau. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) recognized the mountaintop removal process (MTR) as a special category of mining, and exempted this type of mining from the requirement that land be restored to its approximate original contour. MTR at Martiki has created gently rolling land that is more usable, valuable, and economically viable than the landÍs original steep mountainous contours. Flat land is a scarce and extremely valuable commodity in Martin County, Kentucky.

Martiki Coal Corporation (Martiki) has constructed two large reservoirs, Carcass Branch Reservoir and Petercave Reservoir. Carcass Branch is a 6.5 acre reservoir controlling over 300 acres of drainage including an extensive mining area. Petercave is a 42 acre reservoir controlling over 4,000 acres of drainage, most of which is also mining area. The two large structures have proven excellent in meeting state and federal water quality standards. Over 80% of MartikiÍs present mining acreage is controlled by these two reservoirs. These reservoirs are much larger and more sophisticated than required by surface mining regulations. Martiki has constructed numerous small ponds, which will remain after all mining is complete.

During mining, these reservoirs and ponds serve as means of water control. The reservoirs also supply water for mining operations and the Martiki farm, including irrigation of farm fields and water for livestock. After all mining, the reservoirs will supply water for the local community and future industry, fish and wildlife, and recreational purposes. Carcass Branch and Petercave reservoirs have so far been stoked with bass, bluegill, and catfish. The reservoirs and ponds have already enhanced wildlife habitat for ducks, geese, deer, grouse, wild turkey, and other species of wildlife.

MartikiÍs MTR plan places plant species in two groups Ü those used for outslopes and those used for upland pastures. Outslopes are planted with two species of permanent grasses and two legumes. A minimum of four species of trees is planted after grass stand has been established. The grasses and trees provide erosion control and habitat for wildlife. Morehead State University (M.S.U.) has conducted studies on tree growth with different tree species and various grasses in order to determine the best planting mixtures.

The upland pasture or plateau is also planted with two permanent grasses and two legumes. Primary species are tall fescue, orchard grass, red clover, and alfalfa. Martiki is presently cooperating with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials to enhance wildlife habitat on outslopes and upland plateaus. Martiki anticipates incorporating additional wildlife enhancement measures into present and future post-mining land use plans. A dramatic increase in wildlife population has already been noted in the mine area.

TASK: S/SS1-Old Problem - New Solutions
Grade 12



III.  Land Use Planning

After exemplary reclamation was completed on a portion of the Martiki Coal Corporation (Martiki) operation, Pocahontas Development Corporation joined Martiki in exploring options to demonstrate the long-term land use potential for reclaimed surface-mined land in Eastern Kentucky.

In 1982, Pocahontas and Martiki formed a partnership to begin an agricultural production operation and demonstrate the agricultural production capability of the gently rolling upland plateau created by the mountaintop removal process (MTR). The partnership engaged the educational, management, and research expertise of Morehead State University (M.S.U.) to conduct research on and manage the farming operation. The purposes of the partnership and subsequent farming operation were to: (1) improve the quality of post-mining land use operations, (2) enhance the long term development of the property, (3) explore economic development opportunities for Eastern Kentucky through employment diversification, (4) train students in agriculture and horticultural occupations, and (5) develop opportunities for commercial, agricultural, and horticultural operations in Eastern Kentucky.

The selected enterprises for the farm were: swine and poultry for natural organic fertilizer development to improve the primitive soil; and beef, cattle and sheep for utilization of hay and increased pasture vegetation produced from the application of manure. Swine were introduced in 1984. The facility now holds 250 sows and 15 boars and produces 75 220-pound market hogs per week. Approximately 12,000 gallons of manure and water are flushed each day into lagoons outside the facility, and are periodically pumped over the hay and pasture fields through a travelling irrigation system.

The poultry facility, an 82,000 caged laying hen operation, began operating in the fall of 1985. The laying hens now produce an average of 205 cases of eggs per day. Approximately eight tons of dry chicken manure is deposited in large pits underlying the chicken cages and is subsequently spread over the reclaimed fields.

Cattle were introduced on the farm in 1984 with the purchase of 30 cross-breed commercial cows. The cattle reap many benefits of enhanced soil fertility. These cows have been artificially inseminated, and through careful selection of the best quality female calves, the herd grew to 100 cows in 1991. The mountaintop farming operation demonstrates one of the many potential post-surface mining land uses possible with todayÍs advanced technology.

Improving Soil Productivity

The formation of quality topsoil is one of the greatest challenges at the Martiki reclamation project. The soil in the reclaimed area consists primarily of pulverized sandstone containing a small percentage of clay particles, with no organic matter or nitrogen, low levels of phosphorus and potassium, and neutral pH. By increasing organic matter and nutrient levels through the application of natural manure fertilizers, a better quality topsoil is obtained.

By improving soil fertility, Martiki has increased forage and hay production. With irrigation and careful management, a cow-calf pair can be maintained on 1.5 acres compared to native pasture stocking rates of 10 acres per cow-calf. Hay production has increased to as high as 3.5 tons of hay per acre. Alfalfa, a high protein legume with an extremely long tap root, has been especially gratifying to grow on the farm. An apple orchard has been planted on the site and another orchard and vineyard are under consideration. Any profits from the farming operation are returned to the farm for alternative enterprises and research.

IV.  Conclusion

The Martiki reclamation project and subsequent farming operation illustrate a mineral extraction company's success in going beyond reclamation to enhance the land in what traditionally a coal-dependent part of Kentucky. This project has the potential to reclaim not just the land, but the future, for many people in Eastern Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky miners have produced coal for over 100 years, and with today's technology, some of Eastern Kentucky's coal seams may be depleted within our lifetimes. If so, this reclamation project, through agricultural and industrial development, will be a vital part of the future.


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