Classroom Activities

The following activities are designed to BRING CAVE SCIENCE TO THE classroom.

Class Projects

The following class projects are designed to enhance any of our classroom lesson plans. The Cave Development project covers the formation of a cave, the Cave Life project focuses on the unique life inside some caves, and the Living in Cave Country project is designed to give a better understanding of the responsibilities that come with living in a karst area. All projects are provided free-of-charge and can be modified as needed.

What is Karst?  Cave Art
Class Projects


The Early Development of Cave Passageways

This classroom activity will give students a hands-on experience creating their own cave. Individuals should come away with an understanding of the relationship between water and soluble rock.

Materials needed:

sugar cubes, modeling clay, transparent glass or plastic dish, water, tooth picks

Divide students into teams of 3 or 4. Their task is to recreate a hill in a karst terrain, according to the directions below:

Constructing the hillside:

1. Have each team stack sugar cubes 6 wide, 6 deep, and 6 high to represent the limestone or dolomite bedrock. One side should be placed against the side of their container.

2. Next green modeling clay should be rolled out flat. This will represent grass on the hills outer surface. Cover the bedrock with the modeling clay. The side that is against the glass container should be left uncovered to view the experiment. Before proceeding, all edges where the clay meets the container should be pressed down and sealed tightly.

3.Additional clay can be used to decorate with surface features such as trees and houses.

4. Using a tooth pick, teams should create a hole by piercing the modeling clay gently, preferably near the exposed viewing side. Also using the tooth pick teams should create a second opening in the same fashion. This one should be located near the base of the "hill".

Now each team can slowly pour water onto their hilltop in small increments. The water will filter down through the hole at the top. The sugar will slowly erode and come out of the "spring" opening at the bottom.

Each time water enters the hilltop a little more bedrock is eroded and will leave behind passageways. As more and more water is added, the bedrock will erode to a point that the surface collapses forming a sinkhole.

Follow up with a discussion about the life of a cave. Starting as small passageways filled with water emptying at a spring and ending at a natural bridge or deep valley.

Living in the Dark

This classroom activity will give students an opportunity to experience a small part of life underground. Individuals should come away with a better understanding of how a life lived inside a cave requires the use of senses other than sight.

Materials needed:

cotton balls, blindfolds, a variety of distinct scents (be aware of any food or odor sensitivities and allergies).

Divide students into two groups- adults and juveniles. Pair an "adult" with a "juvenile" and have each pair create a unique sound or combination of sounds, such as two or three clicks and a hum etc. Next give each "juvenile" a scent. To make it more challenging only use 4 to 6 scents depending upon the class size.

Each "adult" should familiarize themselves with their "juvenile's" sound and scent. Separate the "juveniles" on one side of the room and the "adults" on the other. Next, blindfold the "adults" (to make it more challenging, blindfold the "juveniles" also). As an "adult" approaches the "juvenile" should hold out their scent and make their unique sound. The objective is for an "adult" to locate their "juvenile" with the use of sound and smell alone.
Cave Art


Recorded History

This classroom activity will give students a hands-on experience creating prehistoric paints and prehistoric cave art. Individuals should come away with a better understanding of early humans' ability to create pigments and paints, and then take those materials to produce images on rocky surfaces.

Materials needed:

charcoal crushed to a fine powder, multiple colors of dirt (black, red clay, etc.), lard, crushed berries of different colors, bowls to mix paints, paint brushes, stones with a relatively flat surface, (poured concrete pavers will also work).

Students can be divided into small groups, however this project works best with each individual creating their own prehistoric work of art. It is best to mix up paints ahead of time and then let your students create smaller quantities to appreciate the process.

Creating the Paints

1. To create blacks, reds, and browns, mix one of the materials -charcoal, clay, or dirt - with the lard. It will take a few tries to get the consistency right. If it is too dry, add more lard; if it is too wet, add more material.

2. Reds and purples can be made by crushing raspberries or blackberries and diluting slightly with water. If you prefer, powdered tempera paints can be used to represent different things in the environment; yellow for sulfur, brown for dirt, orange for clay, red and purple for berries, etc.

What is Karst?

Karst is an area of land underlain with soluble carbonate rock that is susceptible to erosion with each precipitation event. Kast topography is a landscape that contains many sinkholes, caves, and springs.

This classroom activity will give students a hands-on experience exemplifying the differences between a karst and non-karst watershed. Individuals should come away with a better understanding of how and why karst topography is more vulnerable to pollution.
Plants & Animals  Field Trip Opportunities
Living in Cave Country What is Karst

Materials needed:

four two-liter plastic soda bottles, tape and scissors, plastic tube or long straw, stones, sand, aquarium gravel, brightly colored powdered drink mix, aluminum foil, 1/4 cup measuring cups, water.

Divide students into teams of 3 or 4. Their task is to recreate a watershed found in both a karst and non-karst area, according to the directions below:

Constructing the Karst Watershed

Cut about 2.25 inches from the bottom of the first bottle.

On the second bottle cut 2.5 inches from the top. Set aside the top for later use. Pour 1.75 inches of water in the bottom.
Place the first bottle upside down into the second bottle.

Insert the plastic tube through bottle #1. (To keep it steady within the cut-off top, you may need to pack the tube with aluminum foil.)

Pack stones into the inverted bottle around the tube with the stone level higher at the edges and lower in the center.

Lay sand on top of the stones following the curve up the sides of the bottle.

Lay the cut-off top portion of bottle #2 upside down on the sand with the plastic tube extending through the cap screw portion. Arrange the tube until it extends no higher than the cap screw portion of the cut bottle and tape it into position.

Constructing the Non-karst Watershed

Follow the first 3 steps for the model above.

Pack stones into the inverted bottle higher at the edges and lower in the center.

Add a layer of aquarium gravel (slightly packed) higher at the edges and lower in the center. (Soil layers tend to be thinner in karst watersheds than in non-karst watersheds. The gravel layer gives this model thicker "soil.")

Add a layer of sand on top of the gravel following the curve up the sides of the bottle. On the model, have students identify the ground water, rock, soil, and sinkhole. Ask students to predict what will happen when it rains.

Now, ask students to compare their watersheds.

Once groups have completed the two watersheds, establish the different features represented in their models. They should recognize bedrock, soil, and sinkhole. After geographical features have been established ask students to predict what would happen when it rained.

Next have each group simulate "rain" by pouring about 1/4 cup of water over each of their models. Once it has rained on each group's karst and non-karst watersheds, discuss what students saw in their models. After everyone understands the relationship between the surface and sub-surface, have students brainstorm what other substances can get into the groundwater from the surface.

To represent pollutants, sprinkle the drink mix across the top layer of each model. Brainstorm what will happen when it rains next. After all input, students should simulate the next rainstorm. Once the rain has ended ask students what they saw in each of their models. Leading questions such as "Which watershed had a polluted water table first?" should be enough to wrap everything together for individuals.

Follow up with a discussion about how to prevent groundwater pollution. Topics like better education of the public and groundwater monitoring should be part of the discussion.