On October 26-27, campers had a great time learning about Fur, Feathers, and Scales with SPREE!
On Thursday, the campers were tasked with a mission to solve a mystery about an unknown animal that left some marks in the mud at the park. We had it narrowed down to three possible critters- a scaly snake, a furry fox, and a feathered burrowing owl. In order to solve the mystery, the campers first had to learn more about these animals and their unique body coverings.
As part of our fur investigation, we first did an experiment to learn about fur's insulative abilities. We put hot water in two jars and took the temperature. One jar we covered with a lid and left as is, the other we put in a box and stuffed some cottonballs around it to act like fur. We later took the temperatures again and discovered the insulated one was significantly warmer than the other! While we waited for our experiment to set, we investigated many furs and pelts of Colorado animals!
Our next animal to investigate was burrowing owls. These cool creatures have been spotted near the airport and other places in Colorado. First, we learned the basics of feathers- we looked at several different types of feathers that birds have. Next, we analyzed feathers under a microscope and learned feather anatomy. We also learned about the many different uses birds have for feathers: waterproofing, camouflage, display, warmth, and flight of course! Then, we discussed burrowing owls and learned about some of their adaptations. They like to scratch on the ground and they usually live in abandoned prairie dog holes. A great suspect for our mystery park guest! We wrapped up this activity block with a fun game acting out being burrowing owls!
Our third activity block started with some investigation of Colorado animals with scales. We brainstormed a list of these animals, and then talked about the advantages and disadvantages of having scales. We learned what scales are made of, and what they are used for, such as: protection, water retention, movement, and more! Next, it was time to focus in more on our mystery animal- a snake! We started by learning more about native snakes, and why they shed their skin. Then, we had a relay race to see who could shed their snake "skin" the fastest! The campers had to put on a fabric sleeve and see if they could wriggle out of it! Once we were all snake experts (herpetologists), we crafted some of our own snakes to take home.
Thursday wrapped up with a hike around the park to look for more clues to help us solve our mystery! We looked for signs of animals such as tracks, scat, fur, feathers, and burrows. We listened for calls and hoots. In the end, the camper investigation teams decided that our mystery park guest must be a fox! We saw some tracks that supported our theory, as well as realizing it was too cold for snakes to be out that day, and we did not find any owl burrows or feathers.
On Friday we continued our fur, feathers, and scales theme.
The furry focus of the day was on Beavers! They have two layers of fur- one is fluffy and warm, and the other, they can coat in oil and have it waterproof while they are swimming! We got to investigate a beaver pelt and feel the two different layers of fur. We also did an experiment with oil and water we put together in a jar to see how they do not mix! Next, we learned all about beavers' building skills and the difference between their lodge homes and dams. To help demonstrate, we built our own mini beaver homes!
During our feathered animal investigation, we went on a mini hike to Vanderbilt park. We got to see many types of ducks and birds on our way there and back- as well as on the pond! We saw geese, gadwall ducks, mallard ducks, pigeons, a kestrel, and more! We talked about how different kinds of birds have different kinds of feathers. Some are lighter and better for flying, while other specially interlock to help keep the bird waterproof. After our exploration hike, we played a game about molting- it is sort of like shedding, but for birds!
Our last investigative activity was about scales. We learned about the western hognose snake, rattle snakes, and other native Colorado snakes. We played a game about dispelling snake myths and learned a lot! Did you know snakes move five different ways? They don't just do the "worm!" (It's hard work- we tried it out!) With all of our newfound knowledge, we made snake information posters, and told some silly snake jokes, too!
To wrap up the day, we combined all of our knowledge about fur, feathers, and scales into one! Each camper was given a unique habitat description and had to invent a new animal that could survive in that habitat. Some animals had fur, some had feathers, some had scales, and some had all three!