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.
Myra Faye Turner, Writer