Lesson Plan

Learning about Caves

Half Mile Hall - one of the largest rooms in Wind Cave

Half Mile Hall - one of the largest rooms in Wind Cave

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade
Subject:
Earth Science
Duration:
1 hour
Group Size:
Up to 36
Setting:
classroom
National/State Standards:
Earth and Space Science, Content Standard D-
Students should develop an understanding of:
changes in the earth
the earth's properties
Life Sciences, Content Standard C:
Students should develop an understanding of diversity and adaptations of organisms
Keywords:
trogloxenes, troglobite, speleothems, fossils, boxwork, cave, water, Cave life, stalactites, stalagmites, troglophiles

Overview

Most caves are created when slow moving water dissolves, or eats away limestone, creating rooms and tunnel-like passages. Wind Cave began developing millions of years ago, but most of the cave-forming activity was pretty slow until the uplift of the Black Hills some 60 million years ago. This uplift created fractures in the rock allowing water to enter the limestone dissolving more cave. The water had plenty of time to dissolve passages, developing the complex maze for which Wind Cave is famous.

Objective(s)

Students will be introduced to the idea of caves and cave life.
Students will be able to define what a cave is.
Students will be able to define a speleothem and list several that are commonly found in caves.
Students will be able to define trogloxenes, troglophiles, and troglobites
 

Background

ind Cave began developing millions of years ago, but most of the cave forming activity was pretty slow until the uplift of the Black Hills which occurred between 40 and 60 million years ago. This uplift opened fractures in the limestone allowing water to enter the limestone and more cave to form. The waters that made Wind Cave probably sat in the limestone for long periods of time. Water did not flow through the cave like a river. This way the water had plenty of time to dissolve passageways along the many small cracks, developing the complex maze-like pattern that you can see on the cave map.

Wind cave is quite different from other caves. Instead of stalactites and stalagmites, the cave is decorated with boxwork. Boxwork is a crystalline formation that probably predates the cave. It was formed when calcite filled tiny cracks within the limestone. Later, when the cave formed, water dissolved the limestone and revealed the delicate crystal fins that had filled the cracks. Wind cave is known for its length and the maze-like configuration of its passageways. Almost all of the known cave passageways lie beneath a land area of about one mile square making this the most complex maze cave in the world. Few caves are longer than Wind Cave, but none as complex. 

Materials

A web connection to the following web pages: · 
http://www.nps.gov/wica/naturescience/cave-formations-speleothems.htm - Pictures and discussion about the formations of Wind Cave National Park.
http://www.nps.gov/wica/naturescience/speleothems-boxwork.htm - View the park's video about the cave's unique formation -boxwork 
http://www.cavebiota.com/ is an excellent website on life in a cave and other  fascinating information about caves. 




Procedure

Park Connections

Wind Cave National Park is open all year and teachers can bring students for regularly scheduled cave tours any time. Teachers may request a program that supports a particular classroom objective for any of the cave tours.  To make a reservation for a cave tour call the park at least 3 weeks in advance at 605-745-4600.  Check the park's website for tour schedules.  The park also features an environmental education program called Connections in late April and early May.  Reservations for this program may be made early in March - call the park for more information.

Additional Resources

For more information about Wind Cave and the formations in it visit:
http://www.nps.gov/wica/naturescience/wind-cave-geology.htm
http://www.nps.gov/wica/naturescience/cave.htm 
http://www.nps.gov/wica/naturescience/speleothems-boxwork.htm
http://www.nps.gov/wica/naturescience/speleothems-cave-popcorn.htm
http://www.nps.gov/wica/naturescience/speleothems-frostwork.htm

Vocabulary

Cave, Trogloxenes, Troglophiles, Troglobite, Speleothems