Visiting a cave is an excellent way to teach kids about science. In fact, studying caves touches on five different disciplines: earth science, hydrology, cartography, biology, and anthropology. Who would have thought learning could be so much fun?
Most would agree that learning should not only take place in the classroom but kids should be exposed to real world experiences. A visit to a cave is an experience your child will remember for years to come. My sister and I visited a cave in Alabama with Tyler several years ago and we all had a great time. Kids are naturally excited about learning when they are taken outside the classroom and allowed to get up close and personal with things they have read about.
With over 40,000 caves in existence in the United States alone, it’s easy to find one near you. A quick internet search will help you narrow down your choices. You may be able to find one near you for a quick day trip, or drive further for an overnight stay or as part of your summer vacation.
Once you decide which cave you are going to visit, you can go online and read all about the cave on their website. Since school field trips are offered, many will have lesson plans available for download. An excellent guide to all things cave-related, can be found at the National Park Service website. More Than Skin Deep, A Teacher’s Guide to Caves and Ground Water, is a great place to start. You'll find informative articles on how caves are formed, the biology of caves and cave safety. There is also a video link on this page and cave-related activities. Another good site is the Environmental Education Committee of the National Speleological Society. They have assembled links to information and lesson plans on caves, arranged by grade level.
When visiting a cave, you may find many different types of animals including bats, raccoons, beetles, crawfish, shrimp and worms. As a reading activity, select one or more of these animals and then have your child read about each one by conducting research online or by heading to your local library to check out a book. Other cave-related reading activities include reading about the different types of caves including lava, sea, ice and limestone.
Once your trip is over, continue the lesson by having your child write a story about what they learned (parents can do the same). For younger kids, have an older sibling or a parent help write the account or have them create a story in picture.
If you don’t live near a cave or can’t make a trip, consider a virtual cave trip. A quick internet video search will return hundreds of videos that will allow a visit to a cave without leaving the comfort of your home. You can also use these videos as part of your pre-trip lesson plan.
As you begin planning for your summer vacation, why not put visiting a cave on your agenda? You won't be sorry you did.
Here's some pics from our trip.
I never believed in ghosts until my son Tyler (now 15) was born. You would think that living in New Orleans — a city that’s one of the top haunted cities in the world — I wouldn’t be skeptical. But I was. Then everything changed. The old folk say that kids can often see spirits because they are more open and accepting. Then we get older and adults tell us there’s no such thing as ghosts. Many “invisible” friends are probably the dearly departed who have not moved on.
My own encounter with ghosts started when Tyler was a baby. I first noticed it when I was changing his diaper. I was making this funny face and he started giggling uncontrollably. I assumed my antics was the source of his joy until I realized that he seemed to be looking over my head, as if someone was standing behind me making funny faces. This happened on numerous occasions. Sometimes I would be singing a silly song or doing something goofy and he would be in stitches. But I kept noticing that he seemed to spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder. At first, I thought I was imagining things but the more I paid attention the more I was convinced that someone or some thing was making him guffaw. My best friend, who believed in ghosts, was the one to put the other worldly idea into my head but I quickly pushed it aside. But I had not other explanation for what was happening.
As my baby boy became a toddler, the weirdness continued. It wasn’t unusual to hear him laughing and babbling when he was in a room alone. At this point I wasn’t freaking out. Even if we had a ghost, I figured he or she was of the Casper variety and not malevolent. My skin never felt prickly nor did the hairs on my hands stand at attention. I didn’t hear chains rattling or howls in the middle of the night. But there were other strange happenings.
One day an incident happened that totally freaked me out. When Tyler was about two, I was straightening up his bedroom. I sat on the floor and lined all of his stuffed animals and action figures around the wall of his room. When I got to the end, I looked around only to find the toys all strewn on the floor again. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Maybe Tyler knocked them down.” Nope. Tyler was in front of me the entire time, so it’s not possible that he could have knocked them down. He did, however, think it was hilarious.
Over the next two years Tyler continued to chatter with his “friend” and I continued to experience a definite presence in the house. But again, the presence was not particularly menacing, just annoying. For instance, there would be times when the kitchen cabinet doors would not stay closed. I checked to make sure there was nothing wrong with the hinges. No, they were perfectly fine and the thing is, I could stay in the kitchen and the doors would remain closed. It was only after I walked out the room that they would fly open again. There was another incident when my clock radio kept turning on by itself. And numerous incidences when the house was, for lack of a better word, noisy.
In 2005 we moved temporarily to my hometown, Mobile, Alabama, after Hurricane Katrina and I forgot all about my ghost. In 2008 we returned and it was then that I recalled all of the weirdness. I asked Tyler if he remembered any of it and he said no. Maybe by then he had grown out of what ever was happening. I have told several people about my experience and surprisingly no one has given me the side eye. Again, I think a lot of that has to do with the open mindedness of people who live in such a haunted city. Many have shared their own experiences with me. And while I don’t “see dead people” like that kid in The Six Sense and I’m certainly not a ghost whispered like Jennifer Love-Hewitt, this experience taught me not to be afraid of or shy away from things I can’t explain.
Since we returned I have not experienced any strange phenomena. Maybe the ghost was a casualty of Katrina. Or perhaps since Tyler could no longer see him (or her), I too can no longer feel any ghostly presence. Or maybe they have simply moved on and is someone delighting another child.
Parents , can we talk? When you take your little ones with you to the movies, especially movies for a general audience, please make sure you observe a few basic rules. Last week I my son dragged me to see Star Wars. I think I might be one of the few people on earth who don't give a rat's ass about this franchise. But I digress. I knew the theater would probably be crowded because of the holidays and expected a few kids splattered here and there. We sat on the second aisle from the top. In comes a grandmother with her six grandkids. I immediately knew they were going to sit directly behind us. And they did. For the entire movie, the kids talked, made numerous trips to the bathroom, the concession stand and I had the pleasure of getting kicked in the back most of the movie. Not once, did the grandmother say anything to the kids.
I have been taking Tyler to the movies since he was a toddler and from day one, I made sure he understood that he needed to practice being courteous so that everyone could enjoy the movie. I realize with kids movies I can expect more talking and probably more trips to the potty from the kids around me and that was fine. I have always made sure Tyler observes my movie theater rules : no loud talking and definitely no kicking the seat!
I can't even blame the kids (well, not totally) because the grandmother should have made sure the kids behaved better. I even turned around a time or two when the kid was kicking my seat. But no, she didn't say a word; I think she may have even fallen asleep. Let's face it, little kids have short attention spans and sitting through a 2-hour movie is tough. But it's tougher for adults who are trying to follow the storyline while a kid is kicking you in the back and talking the whole time.
We make excuses for kids. We say that they are only kids and we should cut them some slack. If an adult did the same thing, we'd probably either confront them or at least get help from management. We, as parents, need to make sure that when we take our kids out, we monitor their behavior better.
Lesson learned? Tyler had a great idea and I definitely think I'm gonna take it. From now on, I'll make sure I sit on the last aisle. At least I won't get a foot in my back!
Myra Faye Turner, Writer