Student Activities

Chocolate Chip Conservation

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Common Core Standards:
4.OA.2, 3.OA.1, 3.OA.2, 3.MD.4


Materials: Chocolate chip cookies (at least one per student), toothpicks, paper towels, paper cups, limestone rocks, measuring tape or ruler.

Key Vocabulary: speleothem

Background: Early explorers would often remove and sell speleothems from Wind Cave. They didn’t realize the length of time needed for these speleothems to form. Most form over thousands of years. When people remove cave formations, they remain gone for future visitors to see.

Method: 1. Students will “mine” chocolate chip cookies for the “cave formations” (the chocolate chips.) Set the stage by equating the cookies with cave walls and the chips with speleothems.

2. Give each student one cookie, a paper towel, a toothpick, and a paper cup to place their chocolate chips in. Give students five to ten minutes to mine as many chocolate chips as they can from their cookie. Tell students only “intact speleothems” (whole chocolate chips) will be accepted. 

3. Have students count their chocolate chips and declare a winner. Lead a discussion on the state of their cookies. Did this process improve the cookie or would they rather eat a more intact cookie. Eat the cookies and dispose of trash.

4. Have the students solve the following problems (or as many questions as you want)

  How many students in your class? ___________________

       How many classes in your school? ___________________

       How many schools in your county? ___________________

       How many counties in your state? ____________________

5. Ask students if each year every student took a field trip to Wind Cave and collected 5 (this number is up to you) rocks, how many rocks would be removed…

       In a year? __________________________

       In five years? ________________________

       In ten years? ________________________

6. Discussion questions

       Are the speleothems in Wind Cave being replaced?

       Do speleothems grow at fast rates?

       How can the students help with cave conservation?


1. Have students figure out how many tons of rock would be removed in a given time, if the average taken rock weighs 3 lbs.

2. Have students measure the surface area of a rock to figure out how much square feet would be removed from the cave in the given time. Use the area of the school or another building as a reference point.

3.  Have students look up local or state laws that pertain to cave protection.