Friday, August 6, 2010

Into The Earth

This summer we have been considering homeschooling for the fall and so have kind of been dabbling in it a bit this summer.  The topic we have more or less been pursuing is caves.  I must say, we've had alot of fun with it and I feel it still has even more to give us.  Mitchell doesn't tend to sustain interest in things very well, but he has been pretty interested in all our cave related activities so far and we've had some great discussions that he was a full and willing participant in.  In case anyone else is interested in learning more about caves, I'll put up the links and resources we've used at the bottom of the post.

As part of our "cave lessons" Mitchell and I visited Mystery Cave.  Last summer we toured Crystal Cave as a family and that was good.  It was an interesting tour, but Crystal Cave is very much a show cave.  Mystery Cave on the other hand, has a wilder side.  It has a 1 hour tour which is for all ages and is handicap accessible.  I think it's great that they make things so that people in wheelchairs can participate too, but frankly for me handicap-accessible=boring most of the time.  And if you can bring babies, you know it's not going to be all that fun.  But Mystery Cave also has a 2 hour "rustic" tour which is not handicap accessible and not suitable for children under 5.  Now that right there makes it sound more tantalizing.

We were not disappointed.  The 2 hour Mystery Cave tour goes into a part of the cave that has no lights and natural cave floors (as opposed to the leveled and smoothed floors in the more tame section of the cave).  There are parts where you have to duck your head, walk stooped over, and tread carefully so you don't slide down muddy slopes.  And the only light comes from your flashlight.  It was great!

The entrance is this little concrete shed in the middle of the woods.  If you didn't know it was the cave entrance, you might wonder WHAT in the heck was going on when you saw 20 people squeeze into this little shed and not come out for 2 hours.  We saw stalactites, stalagmites, trogloxenes (bats), helictites, flowstone, an underground lake, and enough breakdown to make the whole thing feel just a little bit dangerous.  I came out of that one definitely feeling a bit of awe at the geologic processes that make up our world and I think Mitchell did too.

Try these resources for some cave exploration of your own!

  • Cave vocab worksheet (3rd grade)                                                                                          
  • Caves in the bible : (Joshua 10:15-19 RSV) (John 11:38-40 RSV)

  • Netflix has an interesting Nova documentary available to watch instantly on the computer, Extreme Cave Diving
  • Dissolve sugar in water to watch things dissolve firsthand, like the rock does when caves are created.  We looked at the sugar first with a magnifying glass and talked about its properties - hard, grainy, squarish crystals - then add lemon juice to make lemonade!
  • Some things that are less related to caves but are still directions that this exploration has taken us: echolocation in other animals than bats, volcanos, 1920's gangsters (courtesy of the Wabasha Street caves), mines and other man-made tunnels

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