Sinkhole with Guide and Field Trip in the Driftless Area

Science Field Trips

January 2024

Written by Stalac-Tate

Science Programs at Cave of the Mounds

The tours and programs offered by Cave of the Mounds are designed to enhance the understanding of topics in science, function as part of a larger discussion of Earth science, provide an opportunity for inquiry, and serve as an example and evidence of our dynamic planet. 

Every student can learn in a responsive environment that engages the student in learning opportunities. The opportunities we provide here at Cave of the Mounds serve as a valuable base for establishing a conversation about earth science. This science is part of the first letter “S” in STEM or STEAM. During a cave tour, students can engage in a scientific investigation of sorts about how caves form, how cave formations develop, and the evidence we see to come to that conclusion.

Caves are a relevant issue as most recently, our cave was involved in a scientific study relating to climate change. Our cave is one of the most studied caves in the Midwest and we work closely with the University of Wisconsin GeoScience Department in Madison. Plus we have decades of research from various scientists that date back to 1939. That is over 80 years of scientific research.

On tours of Cave of the Mounds, we talk about cave formation, geologic time, recent scientific research such as the dating of our formations, and more. To add to the experience, our programs dive into two different topics.

Caves & Karst Mini-Course

Caves & Karst Mini-Course takes an in-depth look into different types of caves, how they form, where they are found, and what the different types of formations are.  Included is a walk around the property to look for evidence of other caves in Karst Topography. This type of topography has sinkholes, disappearing streams, and, of course, caves. With the sinkholes, we look for clues around the sinkhole to investigate until we conclude whether the sinkhole is active, inactive, or semi-active. Along with a cave tour, this is an immersive experience about caves and the unique Driftless Area.

Photo of Kids in the Meanders of the cave looking around.
Photo of tour guide in sinkhole teaching scouts about karst typography

Geology of the Earth Mini-Course

Geology of the Earth Mini-Course takes a different approach. In this program, students learn about rocks, fossils, and water. The program starts with the rock cycle, then moves towards fossils, and ends with the water cycle. This program is often paired with our sluicing activity where students can discover their own rock or fossil collection. Or students can go on a hike around the property and see the interesting topography of the landscape and why water and rocks are so important to Cave of the Mounds.

Our programs are about big ideas of science that provide lenses for viewing phenomena and understanding the world around us. From kindergarten through high school, we provide an engaging learning experience with scientific practices while using the perspectives of the to think like scientists.