Facebook Pixel A Hole in the Ground | Western Kentucky University

A Hole in the Ground

ENVE 560 Class Project

During the Spring Semester of 2009, the students of the graduate level ENVE 560 class undertook a service learning project. Using the six-step Earth Force model and democratic classroom style, Dr. Terry Wilson, professor for this course, introduced us to several issues that we could research and work together to implement an action plan. The issue we chose to pursue is a collapsing sinkhole that is located near Jones-Jaggers Hall on WKU's campus. A picture of this sinkhole is located to the right of the screen. Our goal was to make this area safer for anyone who would like to visit the sinkhole and to provide educational opportunities about karst and how that relates to what is happening here.

Typically, the Earth Force program is targeted toward youth and encourages young people to serve as active citizens who improve the environment and their communities now and in the future. Through Earth Force, young people get hands-on, real-world opportunities to practice civic skills, acquire and understand environmental knowledge, and develop the skills and motivation to become life-long leaders in addressing environmental issues. The developers of this program know that little can be accomplished by working alone, so the materials are designed to be used in a group setting. Teamwork and collaboration are key to successful implementation of any project. For more information about Earth Force, visit their website at http://www.earthforce.org/

Listed below are explanations of how each group did their part to make this project a success.




 Best viewed in Firefox-Monzilla


storm water rain rushing off parking lot into grass area and rushing into hole in the ground

For video transcript click here.

After viewing the sinkhole as a class, we decided to work in groups to implement the following:

  • Design an educational sign describing karst landscape, the purpose of the injection well and how sinkholes are formed
  • Establish a grassway for water management to help slow down the erosion process
  • Create a webpage explaining the process of the project implementation
  • Collect educational materials related to karst, water management, and sinkholes
  • Design a rain garden to saturate water that flows towards the sinkhole
  • Research fencing materials and receive estimates from professionals in the fencing industry
 outside class discussion for project discussion

Sign Design

Stephanie Biggs, Peggy Lamont, Tiphanie Merriam and Lewis Priddy were in charge of designing a sign for educational purposes. This group conducted research on the development of signs (ex. Adults spend an average of 30 seconds to read a sign). They created a model that was not only aesthetic but educational as well. The sign they designed describes karst landscape, the purpose of the injection well and how sinkholes are formed.

group discussion about sign design

L-R: Stephanie Biggs, Peggy Lamont, Tiphanie Merriam and Lewis Priddy

karst landscape display poster


Jerry Smith, Carrie Robin Menapace and Caleb Wells are in charge of getting rid of the rip-rap and installing a grassway for water management. The rip-rap that is currently in use has eroded around the edge which allows the water to go around the rip-rap instead of through it. This group has plans to grade the area to and lay down a fescue sod which work best to slow down the water that comes through this area. More information about Best Management Practices for water runoff can be found at the following website http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/menuofbmps/index.cfm
outside discussion about rip-rap
L-R: Jerry Smith, Carrie Robin Menapace and Caleb Wells discuss how the rip-rap needs to be removed in order to provide a space for the grass waterway. 
meausring width of rip-rap
Jerry and Caleb measure the width of the proposed grassway.


The rip-rap has been removed and the area is being prepared for the grassway.filling ri-rap with soil and sodBelow is a picture of the completed grassway for water management.finished are covered with sod

Educational Resources

This group collected educational materials to karst, water managment and sinkholes. These links are available for P-12 educators to use as resources in the classroom. Enjoy! Click here to view the karst related educational materials:



Rain Garden

Alicia Cannon, Amy Porter and Rachael Jones were responsible for designing a rain garden. A rain garden is a garden with a shallow depression that captures runoff from impervious surfaces, such as rooftops, patios, driveways, and parking lots, before it enters the storm water system. Rain gardens can be customized and are limited only by the resources and time you want to put into them. They use natural processes to improve water quality by filtering pollutants and reducing the amount of storm water runoff. The water easily infiltrates into the soil because of the deep roots of the native plants and recharges the groundwater supply. An example of what is wanted to be achieved can be seen at http://bluegrassraingardenalliance.org/.

During the week of May 11-15, 2009, WKU's gardening crew created the rain garden that Amy, Alicia and Rachael designed. Below are pictures of the progress. A special thanks to Greg Fear, Manager of Campus Services, for agreeing to help establish our rain garden by providing free labor by his facilities management team members.
backhole digging hole for rain garden
soil replace in rain garden close to sink hole

 group of students measure are for rain garden

L-R: Alicia Cannon, Amy Porter and Rachael Jones.

After some discussion, the group decided that this area would be the best location for the rain garden they designed.
ladies planting flowers in rain garden area
finished rain garden


Michael Peake was in charge of researching fencing materials and receiving estimates from fencing professionals. His goal was to find a fence made out of recycled materials. Michael’s primary concern was to find a cost efficient fence that was reliable, safe, and environmentally friendly. Michael found out that 90 – 100% of steel comes from recycled materials. The following website shows the metal recycling rates for 2007; courtesy of EnviroMetal. http://www.recycle-steel.org/pdfs/2007Graphs.pdf


This type of fencing is what Michael found to be the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly.


 fencing for around the sink hole
 GEMS visit the hole in the ground for karst lesson


In September 2010, WKU had a vinyl coated chain link fence and gate installed around the hole in the ground.

Students from the GEMS Program (Gifted Education in Math and Science) through Warren County Schools and WKU Gifted Studies were the first to benefit from the "Hole in the Ground" educational exhibit. Dr. Terry Wilson educated the students on karst topography, storm-water management, the uniqueness of injection wells in the Bowling Green area, and the importance of keeping our trash out of sinkholes.

 failed injection well with soil erosion around it  


Since the vinyl was in installed in September 2010, the storm-water runofff has eroded the soil out from under the large slab of rock, causing it to fall from the bank down into the hole. The erosion isnow extending beyond the fence.

Updated August 25, 2011. For a larger view of picture, click here.

Some of the links on this page may require additional software to view.

 Last Modified 12/4/18