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  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Information retrieval
Topic: Rocks & weathering

Cavers have found Britain's biggest cave in Derbyshire. In this activity, students annotate a graphic about the chemistry of cave formation and generate questions about Titan. They then use their creativity to link the cave's properties to imaginative ways of using it.

Published: 14th November 2006
Reviews & Comments: 3

Learning objectives

Students will:
• Understand the basic chemistry of cave formation
• Generate a series of questions about the cave
• Link properties to purpose of use

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

11 – 14 Simple chemical reactions (KS3 QCA module 7F)
• In chemical reactions, new substances are formed that have different properties from the reactants
• The differences between chemical and physical changes
• How to test for carbon dioxide

11 – 14 The rock cycle (QCA module 8H)
• Limestone is calcium carbonate rich, but may contain other components.
• Opportunity to investigate how different carbonates react with acid

Running the activity

Display page 1, which sets the context. If you wish, get students to read the dialogue in pairs to encourage speaking and listening. The BBC news item exists as a short video file – we strongly recommend using this before tackling the tasks that follow.

Display page 2, which shows the science behind the news. Point out that both chemical and physical processes shape the cave. At this stage it is well worth showing the virtual cave animation to support students' learning. You might like to keep the animation going whilst students complete the task on page 3; to annotate a diagram to show the cave's features and how it was formed.

Page 4 encourages critical and creative thinking with a competition to be the most 'out of the box' thinker in the class. If students find this hard, you could give examples of caves being used as fair ground rides, adventure playgrounds and so on. Point out that scientific application is the future viability of science. For example, Velcro was invented as the result of space research. Did anyone ever expect it to replace shoelaces? Although this task is mainly a fun challenge, it is also useful to show how properties link to creative ideas in the future.

Good questions are key to scientific thinking. You will probably need to scaffold the 'how' and 'why' questions as these are most difficult. Set a time limit. This task would lend itself to a splat board to group questions. An extension task could be to get students to try to find answers to some of the questions.

There is a practical activity suggested in QCA unit 8H about comparing different limestones by the mass lost during the action of acids on them. You could use this activity as an introduction to the practical. Pose the question, 'what sort of limestone would dissolve away to make the biggest cave?'

News links

BBC news
A summary of the story from the BBC, with a useful video clip of the trip down the cave.
Good Earth Graphics
Excellent animation that shows the different shape formation of caves. Enables a good understanding of time line.
Learning Web
More detailed information for teachers.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?


Apr 19th, 2013

3 Star

Reviewer: Kelly Hamid

Rocks & Weathering

Mar 18th, 2009

3 Star

Engaging for the students but the chemical reaction ideas were too high for them

Reviewer: Richard Field

Titan review

Dec 1st, 2007

5 Star

looks good so far. will try and and give a more detailed feedback

Reviewer: mamet amfo-brobbey