The Austin City Council honored Bowie science teacher Jill Harding on May 18 for her work in making the "Bowie Cave" an educational resource for Bowie High School students.
As the school was being built in 1989, a cave was discovered underneath the science wing. In 1995, Harding led an effort to make it safe for the public to access and explore the cave.
"In the early stages of excavation, we had help from local cavers, students, parents and community members," Harding said. "We hauled out mountains of dirt and broken formations over several summers and discovered a beautiful, active cave filled with dripping formations. Each bucket of fill dirt removed revealed more of the natural beauty of our cave."
The Bowie Cave now has room for 15 people at a time and has even inspired a caving club at the school, though Harding's true hope is that it will provide a natural teaching laboratory.
"This is the first year we've been able to use the cave as we had hoped," Harding said. "We wanted to show students what was underground, right below their feet, and saw this as an opportunity to demonstrate how important it is to care for our environment. Activities going on above ground impact the quality of the water that eventually flows into our aquifers."