Friday, August 3, 2018

Cave Unit: Day 1

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.   This study uses One Small Square Cave by Donald Silver (available at Waco McClennan County Library) as the main text.   It also uses the Junior Cavers Workbook which you can download for free from the National Park Service Website, and various other free resources and activities.  You can read the intro and find other sections of this unit here.

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The Junior Cave Scientist Workbook has a "Cavers Pledge" on page 23 which children can fill out to commit to learn about caves and treat them respectfully.  It's a cool thing you can do as you're starting this Unit...or you can save it for later (like right before your cave visit).  

Cave:  Section 1 - 2
Introduction:  Pg 3 - 5
One Small Square at the Cave Entrance:  Pg 6 - 7

1.  Read sections 1 - 2 in One Small Square Cave by Donald Silver (you can skip the "Safety First" section on page 6 and save it for the day you visit Inner Space).  

Discussion Questions Before, During and After Reading:
  • Page 5:  Before reading the section in bold, look at the equipment pictured below it (flashlight, hardhat, etc) and ask your children why they might want that equipment if they were exploring a cave. 
  • Page 7:  Look at the square on page 7 and ask your children what animals they see there.
  • After reading, you may want to ask your children if they understands what was meant by "one small square" (especially younger children).  Explain if necessary that it doesn't mean that the cave is square, but that it is just talking about a way to explore nature by looking at one small area very carefully.  
  • Since on the Inner Space Caverns tour you may not be able to choose where you stop, and won't be able to sit and explore any one area for a very long time, you may want to let your children know that when you take a tour of a real cave you'll be exploring the cave in a little bit of a different manner, but you can still use a lot of the things in this book when you explore the cave.
Here are some extension activities you can do.   Remember, this is a "choose your own activity" adventure.   While there's only a few activities listed today, I sometimes will list many more activities than you could reasonably do in a single day.   Choose the ones that seem the best fit for you.

1.  Junior Cave Scientist Workbook Pages
Sign the cover and read/work through page 2-3 in the Junior Cave Scientist workbook (found at link above).  Your child can earn a badge for completing a certain number of activities from this workbook, and I will be suggesting several activities from the workbook during this Unit Study.

2.  Science Experiment:  Stalactites and Stalagmites.
One Small Square Cave doesn't cover stalactites and stalagmites until later, but because growing stalactites is a  SLOW experiment, you might want to start now and you can talk about the experiment's progress when you get to that page (plus, there are additional experiments you can do when you read the stalactites and stalagmites).   Expect 3 to 7 days for these to start growing.   Before starting the experiment flip to page 18 - 19, point out the stalactites and stalagmites and explain that you'll learn more about them later, but are going to start making some now because they take a LOOOOONG time.  You can find an alternative version of this activity using epson salts, with extra follow-up questions, in the The "Pre-Visit Activity #2:  Solubility" on the 5th Grade Teacher's Guide at Inner Space Caverns which also includes some explanation showing how water without salt can erode the stalactites.

(NOTE:  Make sure your stalactites get light.  When we tried this experiment, I thought it would be cute to make a cave for our cups to sit in out of a painted tissue box.  BIG MISTAKE.  Our cave made it dark, which I later learned slowed the stalactite growth.  Which if you think about it makes those stalactites in actual dark caves even more impressive, cause they all grow in the dark.)

While I suggest going to a real cave at the end of this unit, there's a mock cave nearby at the Mayborn museum  (you can ask at the front desk and they will show you on the map).  In it kids can see examples of stalactites, stalagmites, bat bones, and more.  It's not quite as cool as a real cave, but can make a nice "closer to home outing" to spark kids' interest.


Carlsbad National Park and Caverns
This video has more about  the discovery of Carlsbad Caverns and pictures/video of the cave itself.

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