CONNECTING VISITORS TO GEOLOGY AT OREGON CAVES NATIONAL MONUMENT
As an educational earth sciences interpreter at Oregon Caves National Monument it was my duty to facilitate visitor understanding of the complex natural history the caves. My main avenue to achieve this goal was leading cave tours. At Oregon Caves each interpreter is granted the opportunity to create their own cave tour. I decided that my tour was to focus on building a foundational knowledge of geology, and to then apply that foundation to understand how Oregon Caves was formed. My goal was that each visitor would come out of the tour with a new appreciation and understanding of the world around them. In this vein I started each tour with an abbreviated introduction to geology; rock types and how they are formed. I then moved through the cave, drawing visitors attention to the various speleothems, faults and intrusions. My cave tour stressed observation and critical thinking, something not all visitors expected from a tour. The level of critical thinking which I encouraged was dependent upon group interaction and demographics. By the conclusion of the tour visitors were commonly able to identify geological features and explain to one another how they were formed. My tour also strived to convey an overview of the chronologic history of Oregon Caves from its formation to the present day. I believe that both this goal and the goal of making visitors aware of the forces all around them was consistently achieved, and that visitors left my cave tour with a sense of wonder and an inquisitive mind.