Chipeta Elementary School 8 week series of CaveSim programs, Colorado Springs, CO (each Friday from March 15 through May 10)

This afterschool enrichment program has been a big hit with the 19 students who are participating.  The kids are in 2nd – 5th grade, and have been enjoying our hands-on STEM labs, as well as our regular program.  A big thank-you to CaveSim staff member Jackson Fulcher and CaveSim volunteers Christine, Todd, Nicole, and Christa for helping make this program a big success.

John Ross Elementary School, Edmond, OK

Despite terrible weather, we had a fantastic program.  We were able to pull the trailer under the awning at the front of the school, and we put the tower in the school’s 12′ tall atrium.  We worked with about 120 4th grade students (in five classes), and we did two of our labs (karst and formations) in addition to our standard program.


Photos by Amanda Lonberg, 4th grade teacher


Centennial Elementary School, Edmond, OK

Students at Centennial Elementary School in Edmond, OK loved having CaveSim at their school today.  In addition to the mobile cave, we had our vertical caving tower set up for the students to learn about simple machines (including pulleys), mechanical advantage, friction, and forces. We also set up cave rescue activities (which teach teamwork and communication skills), bat games (which teach life science concepts), and other stations.

Above, students learn about pulleys, mechanical advantage, friction, and other physics concepts on the 12′ CaveSim tower with help from CaveSim instructor Jesse Yazzetti.

Below, CaveSim instructor Scott Hall teaches students to work together as a team to “rescue” a classmate using a real cave rescue stretcher.  Photos by Leah DeGiacomo, 4th Grade Teacher.


Below, students learn about how cave formations grow from CaveSim inventor Dave Jackson, who is holding both artificial cave formations (stalactites) and a real cave formation (a soda straw that formed on the edge of a swimming pool because of concrete dissolution and redeposition).  Also below, students play a blindfold game about echolocation with the help of some awesome parent volunteers.


This was our first program in this district, and it went really well!  We worked with 255 students in 3rd and 4th grade, and we had wonderful help from CaveSim staffer Jesse Yazzetti and our friend and volunteer Scott Hall.  We ran four stations, including the trailer, tower, cave rescue/squeezebox, and bats.

Above, students are all smiles after exploring CaveSim.  Photo by Dave Jackson.


Science Museum Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, April 27-28

We were excited to be able to bring CaveSim back to this great museum for the third time, and this time the museum had us do two days of public programs instead of one.  Thank you to CaveSim staffer Jesse Yazzetti for doing such a great job with this program.

Bat Appreciation Day, Cave of the Winds, Manitou Springs, CO

We celebrated Bat Appreciation Day a few days early with this great event at Cave of the Winds.  Members of several grottos (caving clubs) came to staff booths and activities about bat conservation.  We brought CaveSim, which was popular with visitors of all ages.


Above, Dave works with participants on the CaveSim vertical caving tower as they learn about pulleys, simple machines, mechanical advantage, and other physics concepts (left), and Dave helps participants get geared up with knee pads and helmets to explore CaveSim (right). Photos by Mike and Donna Frazier.

Above, Dave by the CaveSim trailer just before visitors arrived.  The fun hand-painted sign was by Christine, who did a great job of organizing the event.  Photo by Mike Frazier.

Avery Parsons Elementary School, Buena Vista, CO

A big thank-you to 5th grade teacher Becki Cummins for writing the grant to bring CaveSim back to Avery Parsons for a second year.  We worked with about 75 5th grade students for this full day program, which included several labs as well as all of our outdoor activities (CaveSim trailer, vertical caving tower, etc.)  A big thanks also to our friend Carole Perrin for allowing us to stay with her.


Above, a student has fun exploring CaveSim, while other students learn about pulleys and mechanical advantage from CaveSim staff member Jackson Fulcher. Photos by Heidi Leonhard, 5th grade teacher.

Las Animas Elementary School, Las Animas, CO

We put on a wonderful after-school program in partnership with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife SOLE program.  We worked with close to 200 students and family members during the two hour program, and had great help from Dan Sullivan in staffing the vertical caving tower.

Check out these great photos by Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff:

Above, finishing a fun trip through CaveSim. Below, having a blast on the CaveSim tower while learning the physics of simple machines.

Above, fun in the CaveSim squeezebox (with some good lessons about fractions). Below, Dave does a carbide lamp demo with a working acetylene light, while teaching chemistry concepts and vocabulary (like “exothermic reaction.”)

Have we mentioned that we’re passionate educators?  Dave teaches students that they, like him, can take what they learn in school and combine it with their passions to do something amazing.


Frost Elementary School, Georgetown, TX

There’s certainly benefit to working with smaller groups.  We worked with just 55 students during this program, but these 5th graders got to do so many different activities, including our karst topography lab, and geology demos (below).

Above, students watch a rock dissolution demo. Photo by Vivian Loftin.

Above, students play with cave rescue phones as part of a lesson about basic electronics. Photo by Vivian Loftin.

Wooldridge Elementary School, Austin, TX, February 28th – March 1st

On the evening of February 28th, we hurried over from McCallum High School to Wooldridge Elementary for an evening family science night, which kids loved.  We also worked with roughly 250 students in 1st-4th grade on March 1st, and we had amazing help from several Austin park rangers and from Vivian Loftin.

Here are some teacher quotes about the program, gathered by Melody Alcazar (Cities Connecting Children to Nature):

  • It was amazing experience for all students!
  • I loved that there were different activities and each leader was able to share their knowledge in an exciting way for the students.
  • It was so educational and hands on!
  • My kids really loved the presenters and how engaging they were.  My kids also really enjoyed the cave activities.
  • I liked all that was explaining with real examples. Something that we cannot do in class.
  • I liked how interactive and hands on the whole experience was. The kids really got a lot out of it and loved the new adventure.
  • The students loved the whole experience!  They couldn’t stop talking about it!

The survey also found that 10 out of 10 teachers said “Yes” when asked, “Would you like your students to participate if the CaveSim is brought back next year?”  These teachers rated the CaveSim experience a 9.5 out of 10.


McCallum High School, Austin, TX, February 25-28

We worked with over 1,100 students over the course of this four day program, and students learned about a wide variety of subjects, from conservation of mass/energy with carbide lamp demos to electromagnetism with cave rescue phone demos.  We had great help from Robin Gary and Jackie Vay of the Edwards Aquifer Barton Springs Conservation District, as well as from Denise and Mimi.

High school students get hands-on physics lessons with help from CaveSim staff member Mary Hicks. Photo by Edward Johnson, MacJournalism, McCallum HS.

Having fun with the squeezebox. Photo by Greg Alvarez, MacJournalism, McCallum HS.

Barrington Elementary School, Austin, TX

This wonderful program was put on with fantastic help from several Austin park rangers.

Above, Dave teaches students about cave chemistry while they wait to explore CaveSim. Below, CaveSim staffer Mary Hicks helps students learn about pulleys, mechanical advantage, friction, and other physics concepts on the 12′ CaveSim A-Frame. Photos by Melody Alcazar, Cities Connecting Children to Nature.

Above, students try the CaveSim squeezebox with help from an Austin Park Ranger. The park rangers did a great job of helping us staff this fun program. Below, students practice teamwork and communication skills with the cave rescue stretcher (Sked).  Photos by Melody Alcazar, Cities Connecting Children to Nature.

Edwards Aquifer Authority, San Antonio, TX

Dave was honored to be invited by Geary Schindel to be the guest speaker at an installment of the Edwards Aquifer Brown Bag Lunch series.  In addition to presenting about CaveSim’s educational activities, Dave and CaveSim staff member Mary Hicks brought CaveSim to the Edwards Aquifer Authority for staff and visitors to explore.  Despite the rain, we had about twenty folks explore the cave during their lunch break.  A big thank-you to Alf Hawkins for taking the pictures below and allowing us to share them with you!

Natural Bridge Caverns, San Antonio, TX

What an awesome turnout we had for this two-day event!  We had wonderful help from volunteers Jon Cradit and Frances Ruby, as well as from CaveSim staff member Mary Hicks.


Above, San Antonio caver Bennett Lee is all smiles as he explores CaveSim for the first time, and some siblings have fun learning about vertical caving on the 12′ CaveSim tower.  Photos by Frances Ruby.

Below, a zoomed-in picture of our new, comfy, and very safe Bosun’s chair (which is also much easier to put on than a traditional harness).


Brentwood Elementary School, Austin, TX

We were so excited to be invited back to this awesome school!  We had wonderful help from CaveSim staff member Mary Hicks and volunteer Patty Calabrese.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science SCFD Community Free Day, 10AM-4PM

Above, a participant gets first-hand experience with pulleys and mechanical advantage on the 12′ CaveSim A-frame.  Photo by Teresa Johnson.

Below, learning about stalactites and other speleothems from CaveDave (in red).  Photo by Teresa Johnson.

A busy day at CaveSim despite the cold weather at our DMNS program. Photo by Teresa Johnson.