Ideas for activities related to karst and cave geomorphology

1. Recreate Paleolithic (10,000 to more than 30,000 year old) cave paintings in the classroom.

1a. Research cave paintings. A lot of information is provided on the Internet. Start with the links below for preliminary data on Regions, Localilties, and Styles.(Note, over time these links may change, check for new or updated sites with Google Search)

2a. The class might attempt to recreate some of the conditions of a cave, the painting supplies used and the types of drawings. This could involve modern materials, or a reconstructions of original pigments, for instance.

3a. Details of research and re-creations can be made more complex as desired for the grade level and can provide numerous opportunities for written essays.

2. Discussion of karst landscapes, karst features, ground water and human interaction.

1a. Karst landscape usually but not always, associated with carbonate rocks.
2a. Karst landscapes are very 3-dimensional.
3a. Caves and other well-known karst features such as sinkholes and springs should be placed in context with an overall karst landscape, ground water movement and inter-connectivity of the features.

In order to assist teachers with helping students to understand karst, this site includes PDF images of a series of cards that were drawn to graphically represent various karst features. Blue represents water and water movement, red and brown represent rocks and dirt, black represent fractures. Some photos of karst features are also provided.

List of cards

List of photos

The cards are meant to be used as props, or as basic elements from which props can be made by the students/teachers, or to provide ideas that can be used as catalyst for further research. One idea not provided for with the cards is the aspect of time. While a demonstration with props may take only a short period, real-time karst development occurs over thousands to millions of years. Although some karst events such as a castastrophic sink collapse or a flood in a cave can occur in a few minutes to hours, the events leading up to the collapse may have been developing for hundreds to thousands of years and the cave system used by the flood waters could be millions of years old.

To use the images as props, printed copies can be randomly handed out to students during a class on karst. The students are asked to arrange themselves in a 3-dimensional form that best represents a karst landscape. Then students that have water cards are asked to move the water through the karst landscape, note, there are several possible ways water can move through or be retained by the karst landscape. Other card holders such as the pollution types, scientists, water wells also should enter the landscape and describe their interactions with water and the karst features.

Remember, these cards are only generalized representations of real features and the students will need to use their imaginations to get a good feel for the subject. Numerous details of human, karst, water interactions can be added as needed. Any level of complexity can be achieved depending upon the resources, imagination and age level of the participants.

The following figure is a three-dimensional aerial view from Winona County, showing the landscape position of sinkholes (red) relative to intermittent streams (blue dashes) and springs (yellow circles).

Animated examples of sinkhole formation where glacial sediment overlies a limestone/dolostone bedrock surface.
(mov file, Requires Quicktime Player to view)

Sinkhole subsidence

Sinkhole collapse

This information illustrates how karst conditions impact the movement of water throught the landscape, and the close connection between landuse and surface water/groundwater in a karst terrain.

See also the Minnesota at a Glance volume: Caves in Minnesota

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