Monday, May 4, 2015

Junior Cave Scientists

The National Park Service has recently started the Junior Cave Scientist program for ages 5-12+. Those interested can pick up a booklet from participating parks or download one.

I took the kids to Great Basin National Park one Saturday afternoon to get the booklet. We headed over to the cafe to get a treat while the kids completed it.

The booklet starts out with "What are Caves and Karst?" Then it talks about how to protect caves and different scientific things to do in caves, such as geology, biology, hydrology, archeology, paleontology, climate science, and more.

It had a game about the different zones of a cave that we played by flipping a coin. The kids really got into it.

After they finished, we went back to the visitor center to turn in the booklets. Ranger Kevin determined that they had completed the necessary activities and swore them in as junior cave scientists. He had the great idea of having them put on cave helmets.

Desert Boy, Junior Cave Scientist

Desert Girl's helmet was a little big, hence the hanging onto it.

 The kids got their badges and posed for a photo.

The badges are made of wood and very cool.

My little junior cave scientists wanted to go for a walk while on their sugar high, so we headed out to the nature trail. They were being a bit mischievous, posing behind the sign for the photo.

Before long we reached the natural entrance of Lehman Cave, which is now topped with a bat-friendly gate after being sealed shut for decades. The bats seem to be finding it, as each year the numbers are creeping up. Just last week we saw over 20 Townsend's big-eared bats in the cave.

The kids really like the rock wall at the exit tunnel.

We weren't done yet, they still had to squeeze through the concrete block, a prerequisite to going on the spelunking tour when that was offered at Little Muddy Cave.

And one more stop. The kids love getting "kissed" by the cave. They found they could get "kissed" by the roof when they stood under the dripline. Nothing like desert kids finding a little water!

And just think what that water is doing as it seeps down into the ground, through the acidic pine needles, into the porous limestone, into tiny cracks that slowly, slowly become larger and larger. There should be more caves for these junior cave scientists to learn about, if they just wait patiently.

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