Geology of Mammoth Cave National Park
SERC, Carleton College
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Students analyze topographic and geologic maps, through a set of guiding questions, to figure out why western Kentucky is home to the world-famous cave system at Mammoth Cave National Park.
Geologic map, western half of Mammoth Cave National Park
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
While this lab exercise does provide some scaffolding for interpreting the geologic map, it assumes students have some familiarity with both topographic and geologic maps. Students also need to understand that limestone caves form by dissolution.
How the activity is situated in the course
This is the second of three labs about caves and Mammoth Caves National Park, and it follows a field trip to a local dissolution cave system.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Students will decipher the geological conditions that led to the formation of the Mammoth Cave system.
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Geologic map interpretation
Synthesizing information gleaned from topographic maps and geologic maps
Visualizing the sub-surface distribution of rock units
Visualizing the effects of a lowering water table on the formation of a cave system
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
Students analyze topographic and geologic maps, through a set of guiding questions, to figure out why western Kentucky is home to a world-famous cave system. They consider the effect of glaciation on the water table as well as the effects of stratigraphy.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Working alone or in groups, students write a report summarizing what conditions led to the formation of the cave system in Mammoth Cave National Park. I evaluate their report using a rubric.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.
Teaching materials and tips