Chemistry of Cave Formation

Carol Ormand
,
SERC, Carleton College
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Summary

Students investigate what happens to calcium carbonate in an aqueous solution when the pH of the water changes.

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Context

Audience

Geology of the National Parks (intro level course for majors and non-majors)

See the course description, including links to all of the other teaching activities for this course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic safety in a Chemistry laboratory

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the first lab exercise related to caves, introducing our study of Mammoth Cave National Park.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will understand that calcium carbonate (and therefore limestone) dissolves in acidic solutions and precipitates as a solution becomes less acidic.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will make the connection between what happens to powdered calcium carbonate in a chemistry laboratory and what happens as groundwater percolates through limestone bedrock.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Students investigate what happens to calcium carbonate in an aqueous solution when the pH of the water decreases, and then when it increases.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Working individually or in groups, students write a brief summary of their observations.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

I co-taught this lab with a Chemistry professor, and used the Chemistry laboratory facilities.

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