Natural Science

Cave Study + Indian Echo Caverns, PA

We are a little eclectic around here (or is it eccentric?!) so when a field trip to Indian Echo Caverns came up, we dropped what we were working on and threw in a cave study.


Indian Echo Caverns are limestone caves in Derry Township, Pennsylvania. They offer guided tours of the caves which include a lot of great information on how the caves formed and how they’re still growing and changing.

Even if you aren’t located near a natural cave site, caves are still a fun thing to study and there are things you can do at home to replicate how these formations happen.

A few vocabulary words:

  1. Speleology: the study of caves
  2. Stalactite: a deposit of calcium carbonate (such as calcite) resembling an icicle hanging from the roof or sides of a cave
  3. Stalagmite: a deposit of calcium carbonate formed on the floor of a cave by the drip of calcareous water
  4. Soda Straw: Similar to a stalactite but is a hollow, cylindrical tube. It can become a stalactite if the bottom of the hollow area becomes blocked.
  5. Flowstone: Wavy, sheetlike deposits of calcite. These are formed when water flows down the sides of the cave.
  6. Helicite: A distorted, curvy form of stalactite that changed its axis at one or more stages during its growth


One important thing to remember inside the cave is that you cannot touch anything! They are still growing all the time, and natural oils and other contaminants that we carry can stop that growth. There were a few sections in the cave that showed changes due to people touching the formations.


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Discussion question: What is the difference between a cave and a cavern?

  • A cave is a natural chamber or series of chambers in the earth or on the side of a hill or cliff. A cavern is also a natural chamber in the earth, but is one that has the ability to grow speleothems (deposits/formations). So, a cavern is also a cave, but not all caves are caverns.


Science experiment: Make your own stalactite

Additional Resources:

Virtual Cave

Have you ever visited a cavern? Where was it located? Post in the comments!



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