Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Homeschool Field Trip: Mammoth Cave

In my last post, I mentioned that our homeschool group was planning a field trip to Mammoth Cave National Park. We took that trip earlier this week.

Mammoth Cave is the largest cave system in the world. It is located in Edmonson County, Kentucky. Getting there is about a 2 hour drive for our family.

We passed the time in the van listening to Little Bear Wheeler's Historical Devotions on CD. Big Brother is interested in learning about the Battle of Little Big Horn right now, so we listened to Little Bear's stories about it.

Along with 3 other homeschooling families, we had reserved our tour tickets several weeks ago. Because we had a toddler in our crew and some adults with back problems, we picked the Frozen Niagara tour. This tour is shorter and less strenuous than some of the others that are available.

If you plan to tour Mammoth Cave sometime, I recommend reserving your tickets ahead of time, too. Tours sizes are limited, and they fill up quickly.

The Visitor's Center is nice. There is a small museum with various displays and a short film to watch. And of course there is a gift shop.

All the rangers we encountered were knowledgeable and helpful. Big Brother saw a display advertising the park's Junior Ranger program. So he picked up an Adventure Booklet before we departed on our tour.

For the Frozen Niagara tour, we had to board a bus and ride a few miles to a different cave entrance. My husband and boys had never ridden on the "school bus" type of bus before, so that alone was an adventure for them!

Poor Little Brother. He loved the bus rides to and from the cave. And as long as our group was walking and exploring the cave, he was fine. But when the tour guide would have everyone stop so he could talk...not so much. I honestly cannot remember anything the tour guide said along the tour. I really hope the other folks around us were able to hear him!

Oh well. Little people have limits. That was precisely why we had chosen the shorter tour!

Big Brother had a great time. He had taken one of the longer tours once when he was about 3 years old, but he did not remember much about it. Because we had done some learning about caves before the trip, he was proud to be able to point out to me the stalagtites and stalagmites and to tell me the difference between them.

There were some stunning formations along this tour, and there were a couple places where we did have to duck down to get through some passages. But it was nothing extremely adventurous. Just a brief introduction to the cave.

After arriving back at the Visitor's Center, Big Brother used some of his Spend money to buy a nifty little Mammoth Cave ink pen. He bought the pen so he could use it to fill in the worksheets in his Adventure Booklet.

Each completed worksheet was worth either 1 or 2 "bat points," and he had to earn at least 9 of these points to become an official Junior Ranger.

So my husband took Little Brother outside to explore while Big Brother and I found a comfy spot to work. Some pages were simple word searches and crossword puzzles, others were about preservation or cave safety.

Big Brother's favorite page was about bats. He learned that a bat can flap its wings up to 600 times in one minute! So for an exercise, he had to flap his arms and count how many times he could do it for one minute. We found a clock on the wall, and I timed him as he flapped his arms like wings. He was able to flap only 62 times. We marveled at how amazingly God has designed the bat!

This completed Big Brother's requirements, and we let one of the rangers check his booklet. The ranger awarded him with a nice certificate and an official Mammoth Cave National Park Junior Ranger badge.

Big Brother was so proud of himself I thought he was going to cry. It isn't easy for him to sit down and fill in worksheets at home, not to mention on a fun field trip with all his buddies around. But he was determined to earn that badge, and he had worked diligently. For him, it was a huge accomplishment!

And here it is a couple days later, and he is still wearing his badge.

If you go to Mammoth Cave:

- Be prepared to hear and see a lot of references to evolution and "millions of years." I recommend watching Buddy Davis' Extreme Caving DVD with your family first to get a Biblical perspective on the subject.

- Bring a jacket or sweater. It is always cooler inside the cave.

- Choose your tour and reserve your tickets well ahead of time. Remember Mammoth Cave National Park is located in the Central Time Zone so plan accordingly.

- Use the restroom before your tour starts.

- Pick up a free Junior Ranger Adventure Booklet from the Visitor's Center. You have to ask for them at the information desk.

- Be patient and understanding with little ones, whether your own or someone else's on the tour. It is dark in there, and some children might be sensitive or even a little scared.

- Have fun!

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