Thursday, April 19, 2012

Under the Hill

In the last week we have taken two field trips that have plunged us into the cold, dark, depths of the earth. Fun, right? You better believe it!

On Saturday, we went with our church youth group on a trip to the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine tour in Ashland. The tour takes you 1800 ft. into the side of a mountain in a horizontal drift mine. Visitors travel by mine car to a depth of 400 ft. under the mountain. We spent the week prior to the trip learning about the formation of coal, oil and natural gas.

When I first began planning this unit, I was hoping to get the boys to see one of the caves in PA. We have a few within easy driving distance. I really wanted to take them to see Woodward Cave. When I first checked their website, I found that their tourist season doesn't have weekday hours until May. I really didn't want to try to squeeze in another weekend trip, so I figured we'd have to wait until summer break to visit. Then I noticed on their site that they sometimes do weekday tours if you request one. I thought it probably wouldn't be worth it for them to have just the three of us visit, but sent an email out just in case this weekend. Monday morning I had a message from the owner of the property telling me that he would just so happen to be at the site Thursday morning if we could come out.

The best thing about this tour was that it was only my boys, myself and the tour guide. We had a very individualized experience. Woodward Cave originally had a stream that flowed through the lower portions of it, carving out the caverns in the limestone bedrock. In the 1920s the owners diverted the stream, cleared out the mud and opened it to the public for tours. Immediately inside the entrance of the cave, you can see that the passageways are somewhat narrow and low. This is the area that had to be cleared of mud. There are few stalactites and other speleothems in this area, probably due to the volume of water that would have flowed through at one time.

Our guide told us how the Penn State geology professor brings his students there to see features that are rare in caverns of PA. I will share a few pictures of the things we saw today.

The Tower of Babel is a nice example of flowstone.

I like bananas...because they have no bones...

Bacon! This formation is actually called a bacon strip.

We have one week left in our geology unit. In fact, it will be the last full week of science for this school year. We are considering taking one more trip to Rickett's Glen State Park. I would really like it to be a camping trip so that we can spend a couple days exploring the trails, instead of trying to pack it all in to one day. I'm pretty sure we'll have to wait a bit before we can pull that off, maybe not until later in the summer. No problem...the learning can keep going, even when the school year ends.

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