Karst Topography Paper Model

3-D paper model
In this activity, students will construct a 3-D paper model that shows how water moves through karst and cave systems. Peering into the model's cave opening reveals a miniature diorama with many cave features.

Learning Activity

Grade Level: 9-12
Source: USGS Open File Report 97-536-A modified by National Park Service

Karst landscapes denote a specific type of terrain formed by the dissolution of carbonate rocks and are characterized by the presence of sinkholes, caves, springs, and sinking streams among other landforms. It is estimated that as much as a quarter of the world's population uses water supplies that are drawn from karst aquifers. Karst terrains are fragile environments vulnerable to ground water contamination. Understanding groundwater flow in karst terrains is critical for maintaining healthy and safe drinking water and protecting dependent wildlife in karst areas.

Caves are naturally occuring subterranean voids large enough for human entry. In general, they provide environments with constant temperature and humidity levels. They are natural traps for sediments which provide opportunities for the conservation of fossils and artifacts, and have the potential to provide detailed paleoclimate archives. Some caves provide habitat for rare or endangered species, and support unique bacteria not seen on the surface of the Earth.


  • Scissors

  • Glue or tape

  • pencils, crayons, or markers

  • Cave pattern

Photographic Instructions

photos show steps for building the karst model
Click image to view large PDF.
  • Karst Topography Paper Model Reading Guide (Pre-Activity)
    This activity has reading material for students to learn about karst features and how they are formed. Students also learn the significance of caves and karst. [460 KB PDF, 508c]
  • Karst Topography Paper Model Student Page
    Includes student cave pattern, assembly instructions, and conclusion questions. [5.03 MB PDF, 508c]
  • Photographic Instructions
    Quick overview of construction of the Karst Topography model. [1.76 MB PDF, 508c]
  • Karst Topography Model Pattern in Color
    These color patterns of the Karst Topography Model can be used to construct a classroom demonstration model. 8.5x11 version [1.52 MB PDF, 508c] | 11x17 version [1.87 MB PDF, 508c]

Last updated: January 27, 2023


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