Mammoth teachers

Dianne Piper, left, and Meg Finn look up a fossil in a reference guide so they can document where they saw it on a topographical map of Mammoth Cave.

Dianne Piper and Meg Finn are spending their entire summer at Mammoth Cave National Park thanks to the Geoscience Teachers-in-Park Program.

Mammoth Cave is the first national park in the nation to have the program, which allows science teachers to spend the summer working with scientists on a variety of projects.

Piper teaches seventh- and eighth-grade science at Caverna Middle School, while Finn teaches eighth-grade science at Grayson County Middle School.

The teachers are working on two projects this summer. One involves the exploration of smaller caves located within the park.

“There was a new one found Monday, and actually I got into it. That was pretty exciting,” said Piper. “We went in to look at the different aspects of it; to see what kind of biology was in it and if it had a big fossil layer.”

They also use global positioning system devices to determine the exact location of the cave, so it can be documented on topographical maps.

The other project involves locating fossils within the caves.

Last week Piper and Finn learned how to document the fossils.

“We went with the paleontologist and he gave us some background on the strata of the cave and we got to be familiar with the geologic history of the area and the geologic time period,” Finn said.

The data they gather about the fossils will be published in a brochure or pamphlet, she said.

Finn has also studied the history and exploration of caves while at the park, and Piper has studied karst hydrology.

Both agree they are having loads of fun working at Mammoth Cave this summer, despite the fact their summer job requires them to take long hikes in the woods on hot, humid days and they’ve both been stung by yellow jackets.

“I keep pinching myself every day going, ‘Wow, this is so cool‚’” Piper said.

Finn has enjoyed watching the scientists collect data.

“Just actually seeing that happen in the field has been phenomenal,” she said.

After completing their internships, they will submit reports to the park and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers about their experiences.

Both plan to incorporate what they’ve learned this summer into their classes in the fall.

Finn has even reserved some time so she can bring her students to the park on a field trip, while Piper has invited some of the scientists to speak to her students in the fall.


Recommended for you