SPREE kicked off spring this year by hosting Spring Sleuths Holiday Camp! Campers put their detective hats on and throughout the week, helped our beaver boss, Chompers solve mysteries of spring!
Mammal Mystery Monday. On Monday, our sleuths started right away with the mystery of the stripped stick. Chomper’s found a bush with leaves & buds missing and needed our help to figure out which one of his mammal friends was responsible. Maybe a squirrel used the leaves to build a nes, or a deer rubbed it’s antlers on the bush, or was it another beaver that munched the leaves?
During our three activity rotations, sleuths built onto their existing knowledge of the three suspects. We learned that squirrels during spring are spending most of their time teaching their new babies how to survive as prey- they rebuild their nests in the summer. Deer start growing their antlers in the spring… but do not rub the velvet off against trees until fall. Quickly, the sleuths determined that it must have been another beaver that was eating the fresh spring buds and leaves from the bush. Chompers confirmed our hypothesis with a letter he secretly delivered while the sleuths were out learning!
Very scientific research. Squirrels must be sneaky since they are prey. Here a predator camper tries to hunt squirrels while they collect water (chips) at the watering hole.
Mystery Twosday. Camper’s must have done an exceptional job solving their mammal mystery, because on Tuesday Chompers left TWO mysteries. Therefore we called the day Mystery Twosday. Chompers said he received a tweet from his robin friend Romi. Romi has spent the entire winter away from Denver, and was wondering what color her blue grandma was. This confused Chompers, and he came up with two questions: 1) Why would Romi the robin leave Denver in winter? And 2) Why wouldn’t her BLUE GRANDMA be blue?
Throughout the day, we explored and researched birds in winter & spring. Turns out, the reason Romi left was because she is a migrating bird. Migrating birds like Romi think Denver is too cold in the winter, and so will fly south towards the equator to stay warm during those months. However, most migrating birds don’t like super hot weather either, and will come back north as the earth warms for spring & summer.
The mystery about the blue grandma was a bit more confusing, but it started to make sense when we looked at food for migrating birds. Many migrating birds rely on the rich, nutritious seeds that plants produce. While learning about some of these plants in the SPREE flower beds, we stumbled across the state grass of Colorado- Blue Gramma! It turns out, that Romi wasn’t talking about her grandma…. But she was wondering what color Blue Gramma was. Romi knows that as the spring goes on, Blue Gramma will produce yummy seeds. She will know those seeds are ready for eating when the plant turns a bluish hue. No seeds as of yet….
Although Romi the robin likes to migrate, some birds will stick around Denver through the winter- or visit us only during cold months! We got a closer look at these birds during our critter crawl. Even though it is spring, we still had some of our “winter-only” birds like bufflehead ducks down at the River!
Pictionary is always a fun way to end a day of sleuthing!
Weird Wednesday. The sleuths were doing a great job solving mysteries… so Wednesday, Chompers tried really hard to trick them! In our daily mission, Chomper’s mentioned that he had been hearing some strange noises at his beaver pond after the sunset. What was stranger, is Chomper’s found an odd looking clump of jelly (possibly eggs) at the edge of his beaver pond when he woke up that morning. The mystery of the day was to solve the case of the weird jelly.
We began the day trying to narrow down our suspects. Chomper’s did mention that he thought the jelly could be eggs of some sort. From his description, we eliminated birds as suspects… but what else would lay eggs? Reptiles and amphibians! The sleuths determined that a herp was responsible.
Campers learned about winter survival and reproduction of reptiles and amphibians. Most reptiles and amphibians of Colorado will go into a dormant state in the winter-similar to hibernation. Where and how they hibernate varies (some dig holes, burrow, sit at bottom of pond).
We learned that there is a lot of variety in reptile reproduction, but what they all have in common is that juvenile reptiles look like the adults, only smaller. Amphibians on the other hand go through life cycle changes (e.g: frogs). What is crazy about frogs, is that they have “freeze-less blood”. Many frog species have a special sugar and protein in their blood which keeps their blood liquid- even during extended time in below freezing temperatures. We tested this with an experiment. We filled up a container with water, and a second container with “freeze-less frog blood” (rubbing alcohol). We let our experiment sit overnight, and when we checked on it on Thursday we found ice in our water container, but the frog blood was still completely liquid- wild!
Our SPREE sleuths of course, solved the mystery. And after seeing a picture Chomper’s took of the mystery jelly, it was confirmed that frogs were responsible for both the weird noises Chompers has been hearing, as well as the jelly eggs.
Thirsty Thursday. On Thursday, campers were scheming and brainstorming possible critters we would be talking about. Of course, Chompers had other plans. Our mystery of the day was pretty crazy. Chompers said he got a letter in the mail from his shrimp friend, Steve. Steve the shrimp was concerned because he found a receipt from REI in Denver near his home. Odd thing is that Steve is a shrimp in Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. Chompers was concerned and needed our help figuring out the mystery of the traveling receipt. We brainstormed all the ways that our receipt could have traveled: birds, wind, plane, river…. Wait… did someone guess river?
It turns out, the river- or rather the watershed it creates, was our answer. The sleuths dove into watersheds, specifically the South Platte River watershed. We learned that the South Platte River reaches a wider landscape than just Denver. Campers traced the South Platte River from its’ start in the mountains. Using a map of the United States, campers figured out our River’s watershed address.
South Platte River→ Platte River→ Missouri River→ Mississippi River→ Gulf of Mexico.
Our Junior River Rangers took on teaching a lesson Thursday!
It was after figuring out the watershed address, that solving the mystery became easier. Our SPREE sleuths quickly made the connection with the REI receipt. It must’ve fallen into the River in Denver and traveled through the entire watershed address to land by Steve the shrimp’s home in the Gulf of Mexico.
Solving our mystery on Thursday led to some deeper discussions about how we as people impact of River, and how far our negative- or positive!- impact can go. Campers took action and engaged in stewardship project of the park; a trash pick up. One camper made a goal of picking up 100 pieces of trash in the time we had, and they met their goal!
Fun Friday. Every day at SPREE, it’s all about the fun. But Friday, Chompers was really ready to get out of his lodge to enjoy spring weather. Like many, Chompers’ has been (sun)burned before, and needed the sleuths help to learn how he can enjoy the outdoors this season safely. SPREE sleuths wasted no time learning about different impacts we have on our environment when we are outdoors. They uncovered ways we could leave a minimal impact by doing simple things like leaving no trash behind, walking quietly to observe animals, putting animals back in their home after critter crawl.
Campers also learned about fire, and how fire interacts with the environment. The sleuths learned about the fire triangle- the three ingredients fire must have to ignite. They learned the fire triangle with a live fire experiment! Without oxygen, fuel, and heat, a fire will not happen!
Although fire can be destructive, and must be enjoyed safely in the outdoors, campers also learned about the ecological benefits of fire. Fire rebuilds ecosystems- it clears out old growth trees, and allows for new plants to grow and thrive, which in turn increases the biodiversity of an ecosystem. Biodiversity means the number of different species of plants and animals in an area.
SPREE staff demonstrating the Fire Triangle and fire safety
SPREE sleuths wrapped up their week of solving mysteries by celebrating their learning and making goals for the spring. We ended the week with a graduation ceremony, each SPREE teacher taking a turn giving a positive shout-out to campers. It was a great way to end our week of mysteries!
See you soon down by the River!