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Rules and Tour Etiquette

Student Handout

It is not uncommon for a student that has never been on a tour before not to be familiar with the behavior expected of them whilst on one. We tour guides only have an hour with every group, so do not always have the time to go into much detail about conduct. Going over these details with your students beforehand would give the guides a better chance to relay all the necessary information and make it more likely for all your students to have a fun and engaging experience.

No Touching
Whilst on the tour, please assist us in assuring the safety of the children and the cave. Under House Bill 3502, a person may not:

‘break, break off, crack, carve upon, write, burn, or otherwise mark upon, remove, or in any manner destroy, disturb, deface, mar, or harm the surfaces of any cave or any natural material in a cave, including speleothems’.
Some of our speleothems (cave formations) have been forming for thousands of years, and it is very important to us that they continue to do so. For this reason, we ask that no one take any food, drink, candy, or large backpacks on the tour.

Your guide will go over the rules with your class before the tour, and stress that we are not allowed to touch anything inside the cave.

As mammals, we have natural oils on our skin, which once transferred to any cave surface via touch, prevent the calcite from being deposited. This essentially kills our formations.

Stop Walking, Stop Talking
With a typical group, there can be up to 30 students and only one tour guide. As a teacher, you know it is impossible and unproductive to try to talk over a noisy class! The formations and wonders to see in the cave are almost limitless; the students are going to talk to each other about them. We encourage the discussion, but we also want to make sure they understand what they are seeing. A good rule of thumb in the cave is that when the group stops walking, stop talking-it is the guide’s turn to talk!

Cameras
In order to keep the cave in as close to its natural state as possible, the guide will turn off the lights behind the group as you move from room to room. It is very important that the students as well as the adults stay together and within view of the guide.

The most common reason people tend to straggle in the cave is with picture taking. Cameras are more than welcome on tour, but sometimes it is tricky to balance absorbing information from the guide, taking pictures, and not falling behind. There is usually a brief dead moment in each room before the guide starts talking while she is waiting for the group to collect together. Please encourage your students to take photographs at this time.

Inside Voices & Walking
Even though the trip through the cave is technically a nature trail, it is not a typical one! Please use inside voices in the cave. We are entering what is home for many bats and want to disturb them as little as possible. Besides, some of the rooms in the cave echo! The guides will stress that this is a WALKING tour. The natural underground environment of the cave is dark and damp. The pathways will be wet, but we have placed handrails and floor mats throughout the cave to assist with walking.

Questions
The guides have flashlights to better highlight the physical aspects of the tour for the students. When your class walks into a room and sees something being lit up by the guide, the typical reaction is “Ooh, what’s that?!” This is natural, but the guide is definitely going to explain what it is that she is guiding your eyes to with the light; there is no need to ask! Please encourage your students to save their questions for each room until after your guide has finished. We might answer the question before it is asked!

Stay on the Trail
It is natural in a new and exciting environment to want to explore, and your guide may bring up our spelunking tours available for older guests. On your field trip, however, the only exploring we are going to get to do is on the path. There are often delicate formations and can be hazardous terrain once you step off the paved trail. We must stay on the trail at all times. This includes not swinging on the handrails and staying off of the raised cement borders of the trail. Also, please do not get ahead of your guide. She knows where the light switches are and where she wants to stop. Some of us walk backwards as well, which is hard enough in a cave, but all the harder when there are children underfoot!

Leaving the Tour
The guide is there for your safety as well as the cave’s. If at any time you or one of your students should need to leave for any reason, let your guide know immediately. There are three phones in the cave for communication with the surface in the front, middle, and back rooms. Your guide will either call and have a guide sent down to escort the student and an adult back to the surface, or they can join the next tour you pass that is making its way out of the cave. Your guide will be able to determine which action will be quicker. We do not allow anyone to be in the cave without the accompaniment of a guide. Once someone leaves the cave, they will not be able to rejoin the group.