“Footage from the real Silent Hill” Centralia, PA – accidental instructional design

I was moved after watching this video on YouTube. My great-grandfather was a Pennsylvanian coal-miner, so as you can imagine, this video touched a chord in me. I had no idea this was going on.

My first thoughts centered around the toxicity of the steam and smoke pouring from those pipes and underground vents. I wonder about the health of those residents who choose to remain in Centralia, and also about the lingering affects on those who have moved away.

Then I wondered about the affect on the environment. If the smoke has bleached the trees (and obviously done other damage, as there is no visible foliage on the bleached trees), what other affect has it had on the environment? Is it affecting ground water? Animals? Plant life? Is it getting into the fish that live in rivers and streams? Into the crops that grow on nearby farms? How far reaching could these affects be?

Then I thought about all the coal lost to these fires. The last statement made in the video is that there is enough fuel in the mines to keep the fires burning for 1000 years. That is a sobering thought just in light of my previous questions, but what about the cost of all that fuel lost? How many homes could have been heated by that fuel? How long would that fuel have lasted if, instead of burning in an underground mine fire, it was mined and used the way it was intended to be used?

And finally, I thought about remediation. Can’t anything be done to stop this? Can’t the fire be quenched? Isn’t there a way to suffocate it or put it out? Could the mines not be flooded? There must be a way to put a stop to this.

Since I learned something, and since I also began asking questions and critically thinking about the situation, I think this was actually a very good example of instructional design, whether or not the authors of the video intentionally set out to design instruction. I would imagine their goal was to educate the public about the plight of Centralia; something the video does very effectively. Beyond that it stimulates the viewer to further thought and even action, which is a very desirable effect of instruction. I believe this is instructional design, and although it may have been accidental, it was effective in its goals.

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One response to ““Footage from the real Silent Hill” Centralia, PA – accidental instructional design

  1. Spectacular reflection. My great grandfather was also a coal miner in Nanticoke, PA, so it has always struck me as well. I really like the level of analysis you did here and you recognized the inherent teaching that the video was doing. Teaching and learning through stories is something we all tend to do, so instructional design is often just a way of organizing and codifying those stories to make them useful to others.

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