Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Exploring Underground

On Friday, May 18th, the Cincinnati Waldorf School sixth graders explored the underground world of caves at Carter Caves, Kentucky. After a 21/2 hour drive we grabbed our flashlights and headed for Laurel Cave for a self-guided tour! The mouth of the cave was rather large, so we sauntered in quite confidently. Flashlights quickly went on as daylight disappeared. As we walked in single file the cave became narrow and the weather got cool. Water appeared at our feet. We found that we could approach our cave walk in two ways: we could challenge ourselves and try not to get our feet wet, or we could walk through the water, which varied from an inch to at least a foot deep. I chose the former and found myself using my hands to balance on the walls and ceiling. I had to straddle the stream by applying equal weight on my feet and hands. At times the gap was too large or the wall incline too steep to straddle and I ended up walking in some water. Some passages were so narrow I had to get on my hands and knees and crawl. Even though I was being careful, I slipped into the water more than once. Everyone was amazed at the beautiful curves and lines and formations inside this limestone cave. We understood from our study of Geology that water erodes limestone to form caves as well as other natural formations. This natural beauty was exquisite. It took us about twenty minutes to get to the other end of the cave, and then we had to walk back. For our return trip we decided to divide the students into groups of 3 or 4 with one adult. We staggered ourselves and asked everyone to be quiet, or at least speak softly. What a great idea as this gave the tour a totally different feel. I was with 3 boys who wanted to move quickly. As a result I got a lot more wet on the return trip as I wasn't able to position my feet as carefully. Walking in silence proved difficult, but not impossible for my group. We periodically stopped and shut off our flashlights. Our eyes adjusted to total darkness. I would have liked to experience this longer, but my group-mates didn't and moved us along. My class and I had experienced total darkness during our Physics block, but then we were safely sitting in a room on campus. The experience is quite different in a cave. Although we had flashlights to turn back on, we were also deep underground!
We sat outside for lunch and then walked to a fifty foot high limestone natural bridge. The students scaled the steep sides and ran around in the fresh air and wonderful sunlight. We then headed for our guided tour of Cascade Cave. This time we didn't need flashlights and we were accompanied by a naturalist and about 15 other guests to the caves. Instead of simply walking in, this time the naturalist had to unlock a heavy metal door. This cave had lights, staircases, and metal railings. The guide told us that walkways had been created and that in the 1920s square dances were held in the cave. Although we got to see special cave formations like stalagmites, stalactites, and columns, for me the experience could not compete with being in the earlier cave with no guide and only flashlights to rely on for light.
Caving in the sixth grade provides an opportunity to live and experience what we learn in Physics and Geology. But in addition, it's a chance for social relations among the students to deepen and mature. I watched with pleasure as students helped each other with advice and even a hand. I listened with a smile as they talked about their experience. In Waldorf education we always strive to educate the whole human being: the head, heart, and limbs. Our caving experience did just that!

1 comment:

em2histbuff33 said...

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