Lesson 21: Mammoth Cave
DV explores Mammoth Cave National Park discovering its underground wonders with a
Grade Level: 5, 7, 8
Activity Type: Follow-Up to Viewing Program
Introduction: Students will have a better understanding of how caves are formed and
their relationship to underground watersheds. The physical and chemical processes of
erosion will be examined in the activity.
Background: As DV tours the Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, a variety of
discoveries are made as DV highlights the erosion process and the underground
watershed. Vertical shafts are formed as water travels down to the water table forming
stalactites, which are hanging limestone formations, and stalagmites, which are
limestone mounds. One hundred thirty-eight species of animals habitat or utilize the
cave. Mammoth Cave is 365 miles in length enveloping a variety of scientific
phenomenon. The Mammoth Cave National Park Web site http://www.nps.gov/maca/
provides additional information and activities.
Activity: Weathering and Erosion
In this activity, students will experience physical and chemical weathering and erosion.
Materials: (needed for each group) 2 pieces of sandstone, 2 pieces of limestone, small
bottle of vinegar with dropper, 1 cup of dirt, small rocks, twigs, leaves, Frisbee, water,
paper, pencil, small plastic container with holes punched in bottom
Procedure: Students will test the erosion of sandstone and limestone by pouring a
dropper of vinegar and a dropper of water on each. Observations will be noted and
shared with the class.
1. Students will fill the Frisbee with a cup of dirt, small rocks, twigs and leaves
establishing a landform.
2. Filling the small plastic container with water, students will simulate the erosion
process of rain as sinkholes and water pockets are formed.
3. Observations will be noted and shared.
South Carolina Curriculum Standards
Ecosystems: Terrestrial and Aquatic
Standard 5-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of relationships
among biotic and abiotic factors within terrestrial and aquatic
ecosystems. (Life Science)
5-2.2 Summarize the composition of an ecosystem, considering both biotic factors
(including populations to the level of microorganisms and communities) and
5-2.3 Compare the characteristics of different ecosystems (including estuaries/salt
marshes, oceans, lakes and ponds, forests, and grasslands).
5-2.4 Identify the roles of organisms as they interact and depend on one another
through food chains and food webs in an ecosystem, considering producers and
consumers (herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores), decomposers
(microorganisms, termites, worms, and fungi), predators and prey, and parasites
5-2.5 Explain how limiting factors (including food, water, space, and shelter) affect
populations in ecosystems.
Landforms and Oceans
Standard 5-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of features,
processes, and changes in Earth’s land and oceans. (Earth Science)
5-3.1 Explain how natural processes (including weathering, erosion, deposition,
landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and floods) affect Earth’s oceans
and land in constructive and destructive ways.
Ecology: The Biotic and Abiotic Environment
Standard 7-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of how organisms
interact with and respond to the biotic and abiotic components of their
environment. (Earth Science, Life Science)
7-4.1 Summarize the characteristics of the levels of organization within ecosystems
(including populations, communities, habitats, niches, and biomes).
Earth’s Biological History
Standard 8-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of Earth’s biological
diversity over time. (Life Science, Earth Science)
8-2.1 Explain how biological adaptations of populations enhance their survival in a
8-2.2 Summarize how scientists study Earth’s past environment and diverse life-forms
by examining different types of fossils (including molds, casts, petrified fossils,
preserved and carbonized remains of plants and animals, and trace fossils).
Earth’s Structure and Processes
Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of materials that
determine the structure of Earth and the processes that have altered
this structure. (Earth Science)
8-3.1 Summarize the three layers of Earth—crust, mantle, and core—on the basis of
relative position, density, and composition.
8-8.4 Explain how igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks are interrelated in the
8-3.7 Illustrate the creation and changing of landforms that have occurred through
geologic processes (including volcanic eruptions and mountain-building forces).