Students observe the unique geological features of caves and learn how minerals are unearthed and mined.
In history, caves have been used as shelter, as canvases for cave paintings, for rituals, and for food and weapons storage. In addition to historical relevance, caves also have unique geological features. On your tour be on the lookout for crystals, pools of water, stalagmites, and stalactites. Mines are filled with useful materials that we use today. Coal is used to create electricity. Gold is used in the making of computers and jewelry. Limestone is used to make sidewalks and statues and monuments. Gypsum is used to make wallboards and plaster which is used in the construction of homes. Ask your tour guides about what the processes are like for mining each of these resources.
BEFORE YOU GO• Review relevant vocabulary and key terms: speleology, composition, spelunking, adapt
• Provide students visual representations of the geological features they may see while on tour in the caves. Prepare them to be on the look-out for these items.
• Have students list the items from their homes and/or school that originated from mines. Ask them what life would be like without those items. Then instruct them to begin thinking about where those items came from and how they came to be in their homes and school.
WHAT TO WONDERQuestion to ask staff: What differentiates a cave, cavern, and mine?
Describe the geological formations you see in the caves/mines.
Observe the methods for mining natural resources.
Opinion: Caves and caverns are extremely dark. What would be difficult about adapting to the extreme darkness? Why?
Compare two geological formations found in the same cave. What is similar about their appearances, compositions, the ways they are made?
Challenge: Learn/Memorize the scientific names of the minerals found in the mines and caves visited.
Discuss what spelunking is and why people enjoy doing it. Would you enjoy doing it? Why or why not?
Project: Conduct a scientific experiment using clay and sugar that demonstrates how caves are formed.
Research the history of mining.
Social Impact: Mine collapses occur all over the world and can be deadly for those involved. Research the safety precautions miners can take to avoid them and showcase the amazing stories of survival of miners trapped after a mine collapses.