Project Underground is a national educational training program that promotes public involvement and increases public awareness about karst areas and the land use issues unique to these areas. Developed in Virginia, Project Underground explains how to teach about karst resources in the classroom.
The Richmond Area Speleological Society (RASS) initially developed Project Underground in 1993 in response to a lack of training materials for educators concerning cave and karst resources. RASS worked together with several groups and individuals to produce the Project Underground Natural Resource Education Guide, a curriculum guide on karst resources.
The challenge was how to develop an environmental education program using the Project Underground guide. A National Coordinator was hired to create and direct the Project Underground program. A workshop format for the program was established, using a "train the trainer" model to establish a workshop leader network. The Project Underground materials are available through these workshops where educators are shown how to teach karst science in classroom situations. This provides a level of quality control not present in many environmental education programs.
Though the Project Underground Education Guide was initially designed for K-12 education, it quickly became apparent that its usefulness extended to other adults as well. Activities such as "Lost River Village" help land planners, government personnel and local citizens understand the risks of improper land use on karst and the importance of careful land planning in these karst areas.
Today the Project Underground program has disseminated over 5000 education guides to educators and citizens across the United States. The program has become a leader in cave and karst education for U.S. citizens at many levels. Karst education has also become an important step in karst resource conservation and protection.