Saturday, September 3, 2016

Christian Homeschool Science Co-op: Learning About Caves!

Our homeschool group has a field trip to Mammoth Cave coming up.

To help us get ready for the trip, I taught a one-day science co-op class. There our students watched an exciting video, conducted a cool experiment, and learned some interesting things about caves.

We watched Buddy Davis' Extreme Caving DVD. The children loved it! Buddy goes exploring deep inside of a cave, crawls on his belly, squeezes through tight passages, and repels down into deep caverns. He meets several interesting cave-dwelling animals such as bats and blind cave fish. Throughout the episode, Buddy shows how real scientific evidence found in caves support the Biblical belief in a worldwide flood during the time of Noah. The children were totally fascinated by Buddy's adventure, and now they are even more excited about going on a little cave adventure of our own soon! (Although our tour will not be anywhere near as extreme as Buddy's was!)

I highly recommend this DVD!

The following science experiment let the students watch a demonstration of how caves form as they made their own clay caves. The homeschoolers in my class yesterday ranged in age from 2 to 11, so this activity is fun for all ages.

Clay Caves Science Experiment

Materials Needed For Each Student:

* 1 regular size can of play-doh
* 3 or 4 sugar cubes
* clear plastic cup or bowl
* warm water
* paper towels or napkins
* pencil & paper

1. Briefly discuss with students how caves like Mammoth Cave form. A layer of water soluble limestone is dissolved over time by water. Sandstone and shale, which are not as water soluble, form the roof of the cave. Contrary to popular scientific belief, millions of years are not necessary for this process to happen. Most likely the layer of fossil-filled limestone was laid down by the waters of Noah's flood, and the cave formed sometime thereafter.

2. Give each student a can of play-doh (or some type of modeling clay). Tell the students to flatten their clay into the shape of a little pancake. This clay represents the sandstone.

3. Give each student 3 or 4 sugar cubes. These represent limestone. Have the students place one sugar cube touching the edge of their clay pancakes. The remaining sugar cubes should be placed in a row behind this sugar cube. Make sure the cubes touch one another.

4. Now tell the students to roll their clay securely over the sugar cubes to form a ball around them. Make sure the sugar cube touching the edge of the clay is still exposed.

5. Fill each student's clear plastic cup or bowl with warm water. (Make sure whatever plastic cups or bowls you use are big enough for the clay balls to be covered completely with water!)

6. Give each student a pencil and sheet of paper so they can record their experiment. Ask them to write down a hypothesis (what they think will happen when they put the clay ball containing sugar cubes into the warm water).

7. Now let the students drop their balls of clay into the warm water. The water should cover the ball. Make especially sure the exposed sugar cube is completely submerged. Have students record what they see happening right away onto their papers (probably nothing, or perhaps some students may see bubbles).

8. What starts happening next? Students should continue watching the clay balls and writing down their observations. The sugar will start dissolving in the water, and it will leave a trail of bubbles as it does.

9. After 10 to 15 minutes or so, hand out paper towels or napkins to each student. Let them carefully remove their clay from the water and place it on the towels. Have students look inside the ball where the sugar cubes were. They should see a little cave left behind!

10. Have students finish recording what happened onto their papers. Review how this demonstrated cave formation.

This co-op class was fun and easy to teach. Try these activities with your own students and post back here in the comments to let me know how it goes! You might even want to share pictures of your own clay caves on my Facebook page!

And don't forget to grab your copy of Buddy Davis' Extreme Caving DVD!

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