Allen County Intermediate Center & Barren County Middle School, in partnership with Mammoth Cave National Park staff, Kentucky

Huge thanks to Jennifer Shackelford of the Mammoth Cave Environmental Education department for organizing these programs, and for providing staffing to help us teach about 580 students over the past two days!  We worked with 330 7th grade students on Tuesday, and 250 4th graders on Wednesday.  Long-time CaveSim supporter and friend Michael Gundlach also helped with the programs, and came all the way from Georgia to do so!

The photos below are by the Allen County Schools PR staff.


Dave teaches 4th grade students about helictites (above) and gypsum (below).


Below, Michael Gundlach introduces students to the many CaveSim activities they will experience, including the squeezebox on which he’s standing.

Below, Dave helps students adjust their helmets in preparation for exploring CaveSim.

Below, a student with an especially good answer gets a high five from Dave during a lesson on speleology (how caves form)

Below, Ranger Jim holds down the lid of the squeezebox while CaveSim staffer Michael Gundlach helps a student measure the opening of the box.

NSS Convention, Helena, MT, July 30-August 3

What an amazing turnout we had this year at Convention!  Lots of local folks enjoyed our free public events, as featured in this TV segment from KTVH:

On Thursday of Convention week, we spent all morning with a great group of kids enrolled in an Inventions camp at the local museum, ExplorationWorks.  Museum staff member Connor Hague took the great pictures below.


On Monday and Tuesday, we worked with a different set of summer camp participants.  These elementary school students were participating in a science camp being held at the Convention site (Capital High School).  Each group of campers spent several hours with us.

Above, a mixed group of camp participants and young cavers learns about pulleys and mechanical advantage on the 12 foot CaveSim tower. Photo by Jessica Gordon.

Above, a group of summer camp students learns about CaveSim from Dave prior to donning helmets to explore the system. Photo by Nancy Aulenbach.

Above, a student prepares to take a ride in the CaveSim Sked while other students receive instructions from Dave. Photo by Nancy Aulenbach.


On Tuesday, Dave presented at the Conservation Tuesday session.  After the session, attendees came out to learn first-hand about our conservation lessons.

Above, Dave presents during the Conservation Tuesday talks. Below, Convention attendees gather by the trailer to learn about the conservation education work that we’re doing with CaveSim. Photos by Jessica Gordon.

A special thanks to our volunteers!  During Convention week, we had amazing help from Nancy and Brent Aulenbach, Foz Trautner, Jeff Gobin, Barb Smith, Aimee Beveridge, Ken Newton, Kathy Keeler, Beth Cortright, Red Schrock, Charles Kahn, Kate Bach, Andrea Croskrey, Van, Sierra Hiemel, Gabe Wright, and many others.

A huge thank you to all of our awesome sponsors:

 Barb Bentzin and Bob Montgomery with 







Program at the Illuminating Darkness Montana Cave Exploration exhibit, Ravalli County Museum, Hamilton, MT


Above, participants finish exploring CaveSim, and have fun learning about pulleys and mechanical advantage from Gabe Wright. Photos by Ravalli County Museum staff.

We had such a great time bringing CaveSim to this great museum, and we are so excited that we were able to work alongside Mike McEachern and his wife, who have created the incredible Illuminating Darkness exhibit (shown in Mike’s pictures below).



Old Fashioned 4th of July, Woodland Park, CO

We’re so excited to have participated in this great celebration for the 3rd year in a row!  We had great help from Jackson, Mara, and Monica, and we had a fantastic turnout.

PG Retreat, Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO, 9:30AM-5PM

We are so honored to have been invited back to the PG Retreat for the third year in a row.  We didn’t bring the CaveSim mobile cave, but we had our vertical caving tower and we did three fantastic lab programs, including cave biology, electronics, mechanical systems, and chemistry.  We had great help from Jackson, Mara, and Monica.

Outdoor Skills Day, Mueller State Park, Divide, CO

We’ve been participating in this event since 2015, and we were so excited to bring CaveSim to Mueller again!  We had great turnout and were busy all day.  A special thanks to our friend Gary Ammarell for volunteering with us today (on his wife’s birthday, even!)


11th Annual National Get Outdoors Day, Sloan’s Lake Park, Denver, CO

We are so honored that the US Forest Service invited us back to this event for the second year in a row.  We had an amazing crew, including Rick, Gaylene, June, Dave G., and Chris C.  We worked with several hundred visitors as they enjoyed the mobile cave system, our vertical caving tower, squeezebox, and lots of other free, educational activities.


Above left, Rick Speaect teaches a family about pulleys and mechanical advantage on the 12′ CaveSim A-frame.  Above right, Dave Gnuse and Gaylene Speaect work with a participant as she prepares to enter CaveSim.  Photos by Randall Taylor / US Forest Service.

Above, Chris Carter (L) and Dave Jackson (R) stand by CaveSim’s cool table of incredible cave stuff, including carbide lamps and artificial formations. Photo by Randall Taylor / US Forest Service.

Rick Speaect outfitted for vertical caving in his Frog System. Photo by Randall Taylor / US Forest Service.

National Cave and Karst Day, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Glenwood Springs, CO, 9AM-7PM

What an awesome event, and a great way for us to return to our roots!  Dave invented CaveSim after a cave rescue training at Glenwood Caverns, and it was great to re-connect with old friends and meet new folks.  We had great turn-out and wonderful weather.  A huge thank you to Ken Newton, Kathy Keeler, and Cole Newton for helping to make this event such a success, and to Kathy Miller for organizing the event in celebration of National Cave and Karst Day.


Above, participants learn about bat biology and speleogenesis (how caves form) from CaveSim inventor and owner Dave Jackson. Photo by Chelsea Self / Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Above, two participants explore deep inside the CaveSim system. Photo by Chelsea Self / Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Above, a participant pull herself to the top of the CaveSim ascending A-frame with a little help from Dave and a lot of help from the 5:1 pulley system. Photo by Kathy Miller / Glenwood Caverns.

Above, participants get ready to lift the Skedco cave rescue stretcher with instruction from Dave. Photo by Kathy Miller / Glenwood Caverns.

Ute Pass Elementary School, Cascade, CO

We had a great time working with this fantastic school for the first time.  We worked with about 155 students in grades pre-K through 6 from 8AM-2:50PM, and had phenomenal help from Patricia Malone.  A big thank-you to teacher Miles Groth for working with us to organize this program, and for taking all of the photos below.

Personal challenge, teamwork, & learning are all hallmarks of kids’ experiences with the CaveSim vertical caving tower.

The cave rescue stretcher is another great team-building activity. Today, CaveSim facilitator Patricia Malone (in the blue shirt at the back) led this lesson.

In the foreground, students play a bat echolocation game, while students in the background learn about pulleys on the vertical caving tower.

The mobile CaveSim system is always really popular, even with the youngest students. Cascade, CO is a wonderfully picturesque place for a program, and we enjoyed the smell of juniper the whole day!

CaveSim is not just for little kids! Ute Pass Elementary includes 6th grade, and the older students had a great time exploring and competing for the best CaveSim score.

Even teachers enjoy participating in CaveSim programs. Here, students work hard to lift a teacher on the CaveSim tower. Of course, they’re working only about one fifth as hard as they would work without the 5:1 pulley system. Hooray for physics! 


Video by Kristen Sherwood.

Good Shepherd School 7th grade program, Denver, CO

Bringing CaveSim to Good Shepherd for 87 sixth and seventh grade students was great fun, and we’re so glad that teacher Annette Humphrey worked with us to organize this great program!  We had fantastic help from Jackson Fulcher, Patricia Malone, and Monica and Mara Backsen.  Mara is an 8th grade student who did an awesome job teaching the younger students about bats and epidemiology with our new White Nose Syndrome lab.

Students have fun learning about echolocation and bats.  All photos from this program by Monica Backsen.

8th grade student Mara Backsen teaches the 6th and 7th graders about bats and gives instructions for the epidemiology lab.

Students having fun learning about White Nose Syndrome and epidemiology.

Students show the results of their White Nose Syndrome lab with a giant graph.

Carson Middle School, Colorado Springs, CO

This two-day program for Environmental Engineering students included exploration of CaveSim as well as THREE of our fantastic STEM labs.  We are honored to be invited back to Carson Middle for the second year.  We worked with about 100 students over the course of 2 days, which allowed us to do so many of our really cool labs.

Thanks to everyone who helped, including Antoinette, Jackson, Christine, Todd, and Troy.


Middle school teacher Hannah Bell and her husband Chris pose for some photos at the CaveSim entrance. Photos by Jackson Fulcher.

City of Aurora After-School Program, Peoria Elementary, Aurora, CO

We were so glad to be able to do this program on just a few days notice!  Working with the staff of this after-school program is always a pleasure, and this 2nd-5th grade students were great to work with.  They explored the trailer, enjoyed the squeezebox and Sked, played several bat games, and got to see carbide lamp demonstrations.


Silly faces at the end of a great program in Aurora (photo by Sam Welvaert)

Fun with the squeezebox (photo by Sam Welvaert)

University Schools 7th grade program, Greeley, CO

About 170 7th grade students had a great time exploring CaveSim and doing our cave biology lab, which includes culturing live microorganisms in Petri dishes.  Students also learned about the spread of White Nose Syndrome with a new hands-on game that we’ve developed.  The kids also learned about pulleys and mechanical advantage on our ascending tower, about teamwork with our cave rescue stretcher and squeezebox, and about bats with several fun and educational games.  A big thanks to teacher Shelby Ratzlaff of University Middle School for working with us to coordinate this program, and to Patricia Malone for volunteering with us.

Sustain-A-Fest, Colorado Springs, CO

We had a great time at this event, which ran from noon to 6PM.

Having fun with pulleys and vertical caving, with great instruction provided by volunteer Dan O’Sullivan.  

Volunteer Darren Kelley talks with kids as they wait to explore CaveSim.

Avery Parson Elementary School, Buena Vista, CO


Having fun with horizontal caving in the trailer (left) and vertical caving on our tower (right). Our vertical caving program teaches mechanical systems concepts, including simple machines and mechanical advantage. Photos by Avery Parsons staff.

We did an amazing program for about 65 5th grade students on their last day of school before spring break.  What made it amazing?  Well, for starters there was Andrew.  He has spina bifida and is normally in a wheelchair.  Dave showed Andrew some accommodations that CaveSim offers for people who don’t have the use of their legs, but Andrew has so much tenacity that he explored the entire cave system with another student and without using any of the accommodations that Dave offered.  Andrew’s teachers were amazed, and gave his mom a glowing report about his accomplishments.

Students hard at work on our Karst Topography lab. Photo by Avery Parsons staff.

The program was also amazing because it gave us the opportunity to show how flexible our programs can be.  We had some severe weather, including high winds, rain, and even sleet.  Despite the challenges, we continued with the program, and students got to do one of our cool karst topography labs while we waited for the conditions to improve.  To keep the students safe, we also lowered the vertical caving tower during the high winds, and we taught cool knots instead.  The students got to learn the Lark’s Head and Alpine Butterfly knots.

Students learn about helictites, a type of cave formation, while waiting to explore CaveSim. Photo by Avery Parsons staff.

We had great help from volunteer Carole Perrin, who’s daughter Barb Bentzin and son-in-law Bob Montgomery are fantastic supporters of our programs.

Students role-play bats to learn about echolocation. Photo by Avery Parsons staff.

“I’ve heard so many people comment today on your professionalism!” Becki Cummins, 5th grade teacher.

“I’m really impressed by the filler content that you have [for keeping the kids learning when the plan has to change]”.  Bonnie Grover, 5th grade teacher

Teacher Becki Cummins gets ready to by carried by her students in the cave rescue stretcher, an activity which teaches teamwork and communication. Photo by Avery Parsons staff.

Longfellow Elementary School, Salida, CO

Four classes of 4th grade students had a great time experiencing our program on the last day before their spring break.  We had great help from five students in 7th and 8th grade at the Crest Academy.  A huge thank-you to principal Jill Davis from Crest for organizing this program, and to Lewis Dove for his hospitality in Salida.

Aspen Creek K8, Broomfield, CO

This fun program included both during-school and after school components.  All 8th grade students experienced CaveSim during the during-school portion, and kids of all ages came with their parents to the evening program.

Academy International Elementary School, Colorado Springs, CO

Thanks to Julie Haverluk for working with us on this program!  We worked with about 600 students in one day at this amazing school, and we even had time for the students to do our sinkhole lab.  We had great help from Paul Schwotzer, Christine Kirkland, and Teresa and Hanna Johnson for helping out with the program.

Ben Franklin Academy, Highlands Ranch, CO, Tuesday-Friday

This was a great four-day program for 635 students in grades K-5 and 8.  Our program including the vertical caving tower, rescue practice with the Sked, fun (and math) with the squeezebox, several bat games, and of course the mobile cave.  We had awesome help from Trisha Beudreau, Patricia Malone, Layla Borgens, and Jackson Fulcher.

Teacher Laura Tickle said of the program, “this was as wonderful program and the kiddos loved it! We are so glad we did it.


8th grade students learn how to ascend a rope using mechanical ascenders (the Frog system), with help from Dave. Photo credit: Laura Tickle and Emily Ward.

An 8th grade student works his way through the squeezebox while another student stands on the lid to keep the lid from lifting up. Students measure the box to see who fits through the tightest space (and to practice their math and measurement skills). Photo credit: Laura Tickle and Emily Ward.