The Lost Art of Charcoal Making

July 20 - 21, 2019

Curriculum History


This Course has been cancelled due to low/no enrollment!

This course is designed for teachers of grades 4 to 12 who incorporate geography, science, history, social studies, and technology, into their curriculum. It will introduce teachers to the traditional process of making charcoal, known as the “pit” or “meiler” method, as practiced at area ironworks throughout the Juniata Valley, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere in the 19th century. Traditionally, charcoaling was a highly skilled occupation. Ironworks paid “colliers” (charcoal makers) well, who were among the highest paid of the “blue-collar” workers. As the charcoal iron industry faded into history, and new mechanical means of producing charcoal for other uses were developed in the 20th century, the traditional method of charcoal making was almost lost. Only through the far-sighted efforts of personnel at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Berks County, Pa. in the 1930s was the process documented, preserved, and passed on to others. The workshop consists of two consecutive days (Saturday and Sunday) of field school on site, and 15 hours additional time completing an out-of-class assignment. Teachers taking the course will participate in an actual charcoal burn demonstration. The process used is nearly identical to that used at Greenwood Furnace in the 19th century, the only difference being the size of the “pit” is greatly reduced (1/3 cord of wood versus 35 to 50 cords historically). Participants will gain hands-on experience in preparing the hearth, stacking the pit, leafing and dusting, lighting and burning, and raking out. They will also help to cook typical collier food that the public can sample. The entire burn will last 30 continuous hours from beginning to end. Teachers will be required to be present for the first 4 hours (9 am to 1 pm Saturday) and the last 3 hours (1 pm to 4 pm Sunday). The remaining 8 hours of will be scheduled during the burn, in one or more shifts, which may include overnight shifts. Teachers may work additional hours as desired. They may also tent camp overnight near the hearth for no charge. There is no classroom-based instruction in the course, rather, instruction will be provided during the demonstration. Additional reading materials will be given to teachers on the process. Please bring your own lunch.

Available Credit or Activity Hours

CPE Credit
1 Credit
Academic Content Studies History


Saturday, July 20
9am - 4pm
Sunday, July 21
9am - 4pm