Students will learn to understand the necessary precautions for exploring caverns.
Even though all caverns are underground cavities with some similar features, each one is uniquely different. Some may be horizontal, some vertical or diagonal or contain a variety of chambers and passages. There may be no way to tell what a cavern is like from the outside. Will you need ropes and ladders? Is there an underground lake that must be crossed? Once you’re inside, will there be multiple passages that could be confusing and cause you to get lost and not find your way out? What about lighting? There are, unfortunately, many sad stories of people entering wild caverns unprepared. Some never come back out. The sport of spelunking can be a dangerous one if you are not properly educated about caverns or have the appropriate equipment.
If exploring caverns sounds like an exciting hobby, you should first visit developed show caverns that offer spelunking trips. These caverns have professional guides to lead you through and teach important caving techniques. If you are still interested, do not go out and start crawling into any dark hole you find. There is still much you need to learn, and specialized equipment that you will need. Ask around about a local caving club, or contact the National Speleological Society for information on chapters near you. Joining a caving club will not only give you access to caverns that are not otherwise available to visit, you will also learn all the proper caving techniques needed to safely explore a cavern. Start with easy caverns and work up to more difficult ones.
Here are some important safety rules that every cavern explorer should follow:
Be aware of weather conditions. Some caverns can fill with water quickly if a rainstorm hits. When first entering a cavern, look for possible areas of high ground just in case.
Be aware of time.
Of Sierra Nevada Recreation Corporation’s four caverns, two: Moaning and California Cavern, offer wild cavern expeditions that take visitors beyond what is seen on the walking tours. These trips are lead by trained specialists who teach caving techniques, help protect the cavern environment and describe the history and geology of the cavern
Line up the students’ desks/chairs to form tunnels and have them crawl underneath.
In addition to requiring help from home, this activity takes extra work and more space than the K-4 activity. Students will need to bring the following items from home:
In a large area use four-legged chairs, desks, and tables to create a meandering path (Chairs can be laid down on their faces so that they create small belly crawl areas and desks can be turned upside down to be crawled over). Cover as much of the structure as possible with sheets. Turn off the lights and let the students spelunk through their cavern using their flashlights.
Extension Project: let the other classes know ahead of time when you will be building your cavern and schedule appointments for them to visit your cavern. Your students could act as tour guides: issuing tickets, handing out flashlights, etc.
Contact a National Speleological Society (NSS) chapter near you and ask if someone could come to your school to give a talk and/or demonstration. In addition to bringing caving equipment, they may have slides to share. See the attached list of cavern organizations for the NSS address.
If possible, the best learning experience is to actually do it. Find a show cavern that offers spelunking trips and make a reservation for your class to participate in one.