The River Ranger high school interns had an incredible opportunity to learn to snowboard at Vail ski resort this Saturday.
Our day started long before the sun rose, as we met up with Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) and drove up into the Rocky Mountains. Our 10 interns engaged in lessons alongside students from ELK, as part of SOS Outreach’s SnowCore program. This program provides youth with a one day snowboard trip that includes professional instruction, equipment rentals, lift tickets, and lunch.
On Friday, SPREE took advantage of the beautiful weather and a day-off of school to run our Neat Nesters Holiday Camp. We spent the day learning about Denver animals that make nests- and we found out that plenty of species are nesting creatures! At its most simple definition, nests are places built by animals to provide safety and shelter, especially for their young. With this definition, it is hard to think of an animal that DOESN’T build a nest.
We started our camp day by learning about the animals most commonly thought of when discussing nests- birds. We are lucky in Denver, because there are many unique birds that nest in our City. Campers learned about a few different bird species and the distinct nest types they make. Some Denver nesters include killdeer, flickers, red-tailed hawks, and Cliff Swallows. After learning about where to look for these bird nests and how they are constructed, campers transformed themselves into mini red-tailed hawks and constructed some nests of their own using recycled papers. Some campers got so into the activity, they made some baby birds that can “hatch” out of eggs in their nests!
Patagonia invited TGF to speak at their Love Your River Party on January 24th, 2019 at their store! We were able to connect with people who are interested about our local waterways and spread the word about our programs and events!
Patagonia will continue to host monthly cleanups of our urban waterways once the weather warms up. Contact the store to learn more about these clean up events!
Thank you to Patagonia for hosting Good River Beer for providing the beverages! And to Leah Woods for providing the music for the evening!
SPREE understands that it can be hard to view nature up close, but it does not have to be! During camp Monday, we learned some skills and tips to help campers find success in observing nature. It was a fun day and by the end, campers were asked to decode a hidden message that had been hiding out in HQ all day!
We started the day by listing ways that humans could maybe go unnoticed in nature. One way that you can go undetected by animals is through the use of camouflage. What better way to camouflage than to make cool nature masks? Campers used materials from nature to create unique pieces of functional art! We then tested the effectiveness of our masks by playing several rounds of the game “Camouflage!” If you have never played this game, it is a great version of hide and seek. And it is a game that practices both camouflage skills as well as observation skills.
The second activity of the day focused around being sneaky in nature, and we created a nature journal as a tool to keep track of any nature we do see to help us remember! After constructing our journals, we look them outside to record some observations. Campers created blind sound maps in their journals. These sound maps were drawn completely blindfolded, they were pretty funny to look at, but campers also recorded some pretty great sound observations that they may have otherwise ignored with their eyes open. Campers also learned that sit spots- eyes open or closed, are a tool to blend in with nature. When you sit quietly in a spot for a while, you eventually blend in with the environment, and wildlife will feel more comfortable being in your presence! Campers then took their newly learned listening skills to play a game called “Owl & Mouse”. While owls can see in the dark, they rely on their ears when hunting as well. Owls have great hearing!
We wrapped up the day with a challenge! Chompers hid a message in SPREE HQ. Campers had to use the observation skills they practiced throughout the day to find and decode the message. It turns out that Chomper’s color coded stickers next to letters hidden throughout the camp room! The campers found all the letters and unscramble the words “OKAY” and “NO WAY”. We then went outside to the the game “Okay, No way!” where campers had to answer nature etiquette questions while hopping towards a finish line. It was no surprise that we could not stump the campers.
We hope that our campers will be able to take the skills they learned out on their next South Platte River adventure to see the many creatures our city and state have to offer!
We lucked out with beautiful blue skies this Sunday, as the Greenway Leadership Corp (GLC) explored the many outdoor opportunities Barr Lake State Park has to offer. Before parking, we had already seen three Bald Eagles perched along the lake and a Kestrel flying overhead.
Barr Lake is home to 12 miles of hiking trails, archery ranges, a wildlife refuge, viewing stations and an interactive nature center!
To start the morning off, Michelle Seubert, a manager of Barr Lake and a Parks and Wildlife Ranger, put us to work restocking water, birdseed, and peanuts for wintering birds. We then had the opportunity to see our work in play as we sat inside the visitor center, which has a large gazing window and a speaker system that picks up the sounds of the birds outside. We sat in awe as the blue jays flew in and took their favorite snack, peanuts.
Then we were off on an open-air vehicle tour of the park, when we learned about the importance of the area. Barr Lake is not only a fantastic bird viewing area but also an important water source to local farmers and wildlife. Snow from the Rocky Mountains melts and converges into the South Platte River which is then diverted into the Burlington Ditch that feeds into Barr Lake.
Following our ride around the park, we stopped at the archery range to learn the safety and essence of the sport. Ranger Brian tested our skills as novice archers as we practiced hitting the target - which was harder than it looked! We all of walked away with a better understanding of archery and a sore shoulder.
We finished with a fun service project that included cleaning up their 3D hunting range, with targets shaped in various animals, including Jackalopes and Alligators!
As DPS settled into fall break, SPREE couldn’t help but wonder what some of our favorite Colorado cats and canines are up to. Not the ones that live in our homes…. But the ones that live in the WILD! Turns out, we have many different wild cats and canine species in Colorado, and they are each adapted extremely well to survive here!
The Greenway Leadership Corp (GLC) had a blast road tripping to Ft. Collins to learn about stewardship with the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) at Colorado State University. ELC is located on 100 acres of woodland and prairies, working to connect people with nature through environmental education. Aaron and Ally, two students at CSU, taught us the basics of orienteering in nature. Students were split up into three teams and tested their skills with a race to find all the orange flags hidden in the forest. We saw some great teamwork and orienteering to find all 10 flags!
Have you ever thrown up a handful of maple seeds and enjoyed the show of dozens of helicopters spinning around you? There is a special specie of maple that grows along the South Platte River- box elder or boxelder maple. These trees produce helicopter seeds that are on full display in this time of year.
200 years ago, the Cheyenne tribe that lived in present day Denver would have used the bark of the box elder to make bowls. They would boil the sap into a candy as well. While today we may gravitate towards sweeter treats, we can still enjoy the beauty of a boxelder maple and we can repurpose box elder seeds into a fun, fall decoration!
First, we practiced using binoculars & magnifying glasses. It did not take long before campers found a juvenile red-tailed hawk perched on a street light eating prey... and with the start of camp, the bioblitz began! Campers found that binoculars allowed them to see wildlife that was far away and hard to see with the naked eye. Magnifying glasses were great to look at small critters that were on the ground or on plants. Using these tools, campers saw organisms big and small!