Pathway: An Exploration of Coal Mining, Inspired By Henry Moore

Pathway for Years 4 & 5

Drawing, Sketchbooks, Construction

Key Concepts:

  • That when we draw, we can use expressive marks to create tonal variety.

  • That we can use both images and words as a starting point to create work.

  • That we can combine drawing and making to make a creative response.

  • That when we photograph 3D work, we can use light and tonal value to capture a sense of space, and we can use the qualities of the material (charcoal) to capture the atmosphere.

In this pathway, children discover how they can combine drawing and making to capture a sense of enclosed space using charcoal and model making materials.

Children are freed from the constraints of creating representational drawings based on observation – instead they use the qualities of the medium to work in dynamic ways. They will also see how 2d drawing can be combined with 3d making to create a sense of space.

Theme: Coal mining, Relationship of Body to Place, Enclosed Spaces

Charcoal, Construction Materials 

Artists: Henry Moore

This pathway will take approximately half a term, based upon a weekly art lesson. 

If you use this resource in your setting, please tag us on social media: #InspiredBy @accessart (facebook, twitter) (instagram) and share the url. Thank you!

This pathway has been made in response to the exhibition Drawing in The Dark, a curation of Henry Moore’s coal mining drawings, inspired by the release of a new book written by art historian (and AccessArt Trustee), Chris Owen.

Henry Moore At the Coal Face 1942 Image (C) the Whitworth The University of Manchester (003)

Henry Moore At the Coal Face 1942 Image (C) the Whitworth The University of Manchester (003)

Creating depth with theatre style flats
ages 5-8
ages 9-11

Teaching Notes

Session Recording: Exploring Charcoal

Curriculum Links

History: World War II

Science: Rocks, Electricity, Environmental changes

PSHE: Supports Responsibility to the planet, Collaboration, Peer Discussion.

I Can…

  • I can explore how artists sometimes make art inspired by certain places/experiences

  • I have experimented with the types of marks I can make with charcoal

  • I can use light and dark tonal values to create atmosphere in my work

  • I can construct a model using cardboard and paper, combining drawing and making to make my own creative response

  • I can talk about the work I have made with my classmates, sharing the things I thought were successful and thinking about things I would like to try again

  • I can appreciate the work of my classmates and I can share my response to their work, identifying similarities and differences in our approach and outcomes. 

  • I can take photographs of my work thinking about presentation, focus and lighting. 


This pathway takes 6 weeks, with an hour per week. Shorten or lengthen the suggested pathway according to time and experience. Follow the stages in green for a shorter pathway or less complex journey.


Medium/large cardboard box, newsprint, charcoal (ideally both willow and compressed), erasers, black and white chalk, rags.

 Construction Materials (see list here )


Pathway: An Exploration of Coal Mining

  • Aims of the Pathway

    In this pathway pupils explore the work of Henry Moore made in response to working in a coal mine. Pupils explore how they can create atmospheric marks using charcoal, and use their own drawings as collage material when constructing a model. 

  • Week 1: Introduce

    Explore Henry Moore Drawing in The Dark

    In 1942 Henry Moore spent one week creating observational drawings down the same coal mine that his father had worked in.

    1942 Henry Moore sketching two miners at Wheldale Colliery Henry Moore Foundation archive 7 x 8'' black and white print
    Henry Moore sketching two miners at Wheldale Colliery
    Henry Moore Foundation archive
    7 x 8” black and white print

    Use the “Talking Points: Henry Moore Drawing in The Dark” resource to open up discussions about Moore’s coal mining drawings. Invite children to create “Visual Notes” inspired by the work that they see and the discussions that result on loose paper.

  • Week 2: Drawing and Sketchbooks

    Drawing Coal Mines

    Use the “Drawing Source Material: Coal Mines” resource to get pupils to create drawings of coal mines using charcoal, focusing on light and dark areas.

    Choose stills from the videos and give children time to capture the environment of the miners. Consider how erasers might help to create lighter areas or highlight structures. Explore “Talking Points: What is Chiaroscuro” to find out how artists use light and dark to create an atmosphere.

    Work on loose sheets of paper and finish the session by creating a “Backward Sketchbook” from all of the work created in the first two weeks.

  • Weeks 3 & 4: Mark-Making and Building

    Building Sets

    Adding more sides to the box

    Use and adapt the “Charcoal Cave” resource to create a coal mine.

    Refer back to sketchbook drawings and notes to help capture the sense of place. Considering the structure of a mine, think about the layout and equipment used to ensure the workers were safe. Provide pupils with stills from the films in the “Drawing Source Material” while they build their sets. Encourage children to build their own props.

  • Or...

  • Use Quotes as a Starting Point...

    "It was a dark and stormy night."

    Use and adapt the “Set Design with Primary Aged Children” resource and give children the opportunity to build a set using quotes from the “Talking Points: Drawing in The Dark” as a starting point.

    Combine this activity with parts of the “Charcoal Cave” resource to explore how drawing and making can be used to create an impactful space.

  • Optional:

    Add Figurative Drawings

    Use and adapt the “Exaggerating to Communicate” resource. Invite pupils to adopt the poses that miners had to squeeze into, to access smaller areas within the mines. Ask them to draw how it feels.

    Cut out the drawings and add them to the charcoal coal mining sets.

    This one by a mum ;-)

    Or use and adapt the “Drawings with Mass” resource to create a sense of weight in drawings.  

  • Week 5: Photography


    Invite children to take photos of their sets in a dark room, using a torch to highlight areas of their coal mines and to capture the sense of space.

    Drawing by torchlight

    Use and adapt this resource to find out how children can take high quality photographs of “3D Artwork“.

    Ask children to select their favourite images to print and add to sketchbooks.

  • Week 6: Present & Share

    Share, Reflect & Discuss

    Clear a space and present drawings, sketchbooks, models and photographs.

    Walk around the space as if it were a gallery. Enable a conversation about the journey and skills learnt.

    Reflect on the work that has been made by running a class “crit“.

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