Fantastic Caverns to offer new educational program

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. On January 1st Fantastic Caverns will start a new science and history program geared towards teaching youngsters about the natural wonders of caves and the importance of preserving them.

It's called the Adventure Tour, and one of the best things about it is you never have to wear a coat because the class takes place inside the cave where it's always 60-degrees.

Youngsters from Big Brothers and Big Sisters and families from Fulbright Springs were the first to experience the underground classroom setting that started with some hands-on learning.

"We have a cave painting simulation and they get to try their hand at their own cave works of art, explained Hubert Heck of Fantastic Caverns. "A lot of times animal fats were incorporated with clay and water and create a base. And we also talk about fire making because it was really a game-changer for early man. And with that, we also get to dig up, or excavate, a fire pit."

Next comes a tour of the only drive-thru cave in the country. Where you learn about all the different kinds of formations including your stalagmites on the floor to your stalactites on the ceiling. And you learn about the amazing power of water that formed all this beauty. Taking 100 years for every cubic-inch of growth.

"They don't realize that a droplet of water can accumulate into something grand," Heck explained. "The power of water is something that surprises people, shocks people, that a little drop can do this."

It also surprises people when the lights are turned off and you realize just how scary it was for the first explorers who came in.

"One thing that's really nice about this program is that it really incorporates more senses. The sounds, the feels," Heck said.

And one thing they want youngsters to feel is the importance of preserving this natural wonder first discovered back in 1862 when a dog belonging to farmer John Knox scampered through this small hole.

And the water above the surface is still affecting what happens down here.

"What you do on the surface directly affects the drinking water we have as well as the cave life below our feet," Heck said. "It's out of sight, out of mind but it's very much integral to our region."

For more information, you can go to www.fantasticcaverns.com or call 417-833-2010.