High schoolers in the Greenway Leadership Corps (GLC) traveled to Buena Vista to test their wits on white water last weekend. Some students had been rafting before, but for many of these teenagers, this was their first time river rafting. We piled in vans and left early Friday morning from Denver to drive south and meet our cityWILD guides in BV. Everyone donned a wet suit and we piled in the van again to head to the put-in location.
Bison, bobcats, and bears, oh my! SPREE campers spent a week exploring the major ecosystems of Colorado and the plants animals that make them unique.
Campers started their exploration of Colorado ecosystems in the mountains where the South Platte River and many other waterways begin. Campers did some experiments to investigate what mountains are, what they are made of, mountain anatomy, and how they act as Colorado's "water towers!" Then, we got to explore the creek to feel connected to the water from the mountains.
Next, we learned about some Colorado mountain animals! Ungulates, animals with hooves, are one of the kinds of animals that are specially adapted to living in the mountains. Our state mammal, the bighorn sheep, lives in the Rocky Mountains! Campers made some sheep marionettes and learned some cool facts about them while acting out some of their behaviors.
Another cool Colorado ecosystem is a prairie! Prairies are a unique type of grassland found in North America- including Colorado.
Campers learned about unique features of prairies- including the types of plants, types of soils, types of weather and amounts of precipitation, and types of animals that live there. Campers delved into prairie plant adaptations with a dress up and drawing activity: they have skinny leaves to minimize water loss, super long roots to collect water, ability to grow back after fires, ability to grow back after being eaten by grazers, and more! Campers then went on a mini plant exploration hike to discover that Denver is actually built on prairie land!
Next, we learned about a few Colorado Prairie animals!
We played a game to learn about how all parts of the bison were used by Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes, tried to lift how much bison eat in a day (24 pounds!), and played a hunting game to reenact some Native American skills.
Another animal we learned about was a prairie dog! Campers learned how they are a keystone prairie species, and we played a game to learn how they comunnicate danger, "yip, yip!"
And as always, we got time to explore the creek, cool off, and catch some critters.
Thursday: The City (Field Day)
Another important Colorado ecosystem that the river and creek flow through is cities! Many plants and animals inhabit this urban landscape, even if it may not be obvious at first! Campers took a short hike along the river trail to nearby Commons park. We learned about squirrels through an animal mystery activity and a predator and prey game. Then, we explored in the tall grasses and discovered many exciting parts of nature in the city while on a scavenger hunt!
After a picnic lunch in the park, we headed back towards camp on the trail with a stop in Confluence park to play water games and search for crawdads in the river. We caught many big crawdads and learned some cool facts about them!
Colorado has some desert regions in it, too! With very little rain, plants and animals have many cool and unique adaptations to survive the tough conditions.
We discussed a few types of desert plants with unique adaptations, but of course we primarily focused on cactus! Campers made model cactus out of clay to see that their spines are not only a defense mechanism, but they also provide shade for the plants! Next, we got to dissect a prickly pear cactus leaf to see what they look like inside where all their water and nutrients are stored.
Jackrabbits and roadrunners were some cool desert animals that campers got to learn about! We made our own jackrabbit ears while we learned about their unique cooling system. Then, we learned some cool roadrunner facts and played a game to learn about their speed and hunting skills!
Before critter crawl, we discussed how deserts typically don't have waterways running through them and what some environmental desert dangers could be (and how to help avoid them!) Then we got to get in the creek to cool off after our "heated" discussion!
Now that the campers were Colorado ecosystem experts, we wrapped up our week with a graduation ceremony!
Summer campers had a great time learning about many Colorado "Creepy Creatures" over the week of June 10-14! Whether you love creepy creatures or they give you the heebie-jeebies, these critters are a part of Colorado! Campers joined us for a week of learning about animals like spiders, bats, and snakes while we learned facts, dispelled myths, and found that they may be cool creatures after all!
Monday: Slimy Scaries
We kicked off the week with learning about some creatures that may be slimy and scary! But we discovered that not all of these creatures were slimy after all! Campers started by becoming Colorado snake experts. We learned about the many snakes that call Colorado home, analyzed shedded snake skin and talked about its importance to snakes, played some snake games, and even got to meet one of the River Ranger's pet ball python that she brought in to say hello (and she wasn't slimy at all!).
The next animals we learned about really were slimy! Leeches and worms are common in Colorado waterways and underground. We learned about some cool adaptations that these animal cousins have, discovered how they are both important in their ecosystems, and got to go into the River to try and catch some! (Leeches and aquatic worms can both be found in the South Platte!)
Week 1 of SPREE summer camp started off with a fun theme of "Special Agent Training!" Kids at both camps spent the week of June 3-7 learning how to care for the River and environment, defeat some SPREE villians, and how to catch some crawdads in the River and Creek!
Monday: What is a Special Agent?
Campers received a mission from Chompers, head of the SPREE Force, to learn to become special agents during camp this week, as well as learn some facts about water in Denver to get an idea of what challenges they may face over the week. Campers started by thinking about all the different ways they use water every day. There are more direct and indirect uses than you might think of at first! We also talked about the many different ways people in Denver need and use water- in homes, businesses, farms, factories, etc. We acted out how it can be challenging to share this limited resource, and discussed ideas on how to make it work. Next, campers learned that this water actually comes from the River right next to camp- the South Platte! We learned that the River starts in the mountains, and the water in it actually runs all the way to the Ocean!
For our special agent skills course of the day, we got to get introduced to the many Agents of the SPREE Force and learn about the special skills they each have. Then, we practiced some skills of our own through activities and games. We made disguises, practiced getting to know each other and being a good teammate, and honed our observation skills.
Finally, it was everyone's favorite part of the day- critter crawl! We learned about what critters can be found in the River and Creek, how they indicate water quality, and we got to get in the water to catch some! We were challenged by Crusher the crawdad- and right hand man of Chompers, to each catch and hold a crawdad this week!
We all wrapped up the day with the start of our Special Agent Code of Conduct list that we added to throughout the week as we learned more and more!
It has been a phenomenal year for our Youth Leadership team as we continued our high school internship with KIPP Denver Collegiate and began a new internship program with KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy.
The Greenway Leadership River Ranger program is designed for high school students to develop their leadership and communication skills, as well as knowledge of the environment and Environmental Education. The internship consists of teaching days, GLC days, and holiday camp. Interns are paired up, and each pair is assigned a lesson from a SPREE field trip. Interns then attend and teach on four SPREE excursions throughout the year. Greenway Leadership Corps (GLC) days involve interns participating in two GLC events during the school year. And finally, interns attend one day of SPREE holiday camp to learn and practice student management.
It was a beautiful, sunny day at Cherry Creek Reservoir when the Greenway Leadership Corps took six Denver high schoolers sailing for their first time. The Greenway Leadership Corps (GLC) is a segment of The Greenway Foundation that hosts monthly outdoor adventure and stewardship events for Denver high school students. All events are free of charge and students are never required to bring any gear or prior experience!
We were thrilled to have a former SPREE camper, now in high school, intern with us this spring! She spent two weeks shadowing our educators at SPREE Excursions and Holiday Camp and even tried out some teaching herself. Read her account of the experience and why she chose to intern with SPREE below.
This past Monday, campers braved the cold and calls for bad weather and joined SPREE in a one day camp-out! This day of Holiday Camp was Camping 101 and was focused on skills and materials needed for a successful camping trip whether it be in a backyard or a national forest.
The first activity we did was scheme and plan the supplies needed for a camp out. We organized the supplies into “Camping Wants” vs “Camping Needs” because it is important to prioritize supplies based on the available space you have to transport everything! We then went outside to learn how to set up a tent, and test out some sleeping bags- they helped keep us warm!
Spring was in full swing Saturday as the Greenway Leadership Corp (GLC) met to celebrate Earth Day. The Greenway Leadership Corps meets once a month for stewardship events, outdoor adventures and professional development. Each event is free of charge to high school students with no experience or gear necessary!
For the 2018-2019 competition, student teams focused on the section of the South Platte River, just upstream of the confluence with the Cherry Creek. This semester, four teams have been bringing their concept to life by building a scaled model of their design. The teams tested their models in a specialized flume in front of a diverse panel of judges last week. Here are the top three teams!
Click here to learn more about this competition.
To view all of the photos from the competition, check out the album on our Facebook page.
Check out the story that Channel 4 CBS Denver did on the competition!
Thank you to everyone who participated this year! Stay tuned for details on next year's competition!