From storms to tornadoes and earthquakes to volcanoes, campers learned about many amazing forces of nature that have shaped Colorado’s past and will be a part of its future.
Monday: Meteorologists in Training
To start off the week, campers learned some meteorologist skills and some storm basics. First, campers did an experiment to learn the answer to the age-old question, "why is the sky blue?" We put a flashlight up to a milk and water mixture to see how the liquid, just our our atmosphere scatters blue light that we see. Next, we learned more about storms, what their classifications mean, and how they work. We did an experiment with food coloring and shaving cream to make rainclouds and another with colored ice in cold and warm water to see the two "fronts" come together to make a storm! We also made tornadoes in soda bottles, and learned what to do to stay safe in a tornado.
We wrapped up our first day with exploring in the creek and investigating how different types of weather could affect the water and the plants and animals that live there.
Tuesday: Bringing the Heat
Despite being a very cool June day, our topic today was heat! Campers first learned the signs and dangers of hyperthermia and how to prevent it, then cooled off in the creek. Then, we made a drink koozie for our water bottles to help us remember to always stay hydrated! Next, we talked about how severe heat and lack of precipitation can lead to drought conditions- although again, dry weather has not been much of a concern so far this summer! Camper brainstormed how they use water daily, both directly and indirectly, and worked together to come up with a pledge on simple ways to conserve water in their lives. Another hot force of nature is fire! campers learned about how fires can be dangerous to ecosystems, but also how they can be beneficial, too! Campers became experts in fire ingredients as they learned the "fire triangle;" energy, oxygen, and fuel. Lastly, we played some fire games: fire safety charades, and wildfire containment tag.
Campers got to head out on an adventure of field day on Thursday! The theme of the day was floods! The group headed out to Confluence Park- the perfect place to learn about floods. The campers learned that Denver has a large history of flooding, the biggest being in 1965, which eventually lead to the start of The Greenway Foundation and SPREE after the South Platte became a trash dump! Campers reenacted the flood by rolling down the Mount Trashmore hill (where a lot of trash is sequestered that was taken out of the river). Then, we cooled down in the shade while we painted river scenes with watercolors.
We wrapped up our day with water games at the confluence and critter crawl at camp.
Friday: Amazing Underground
Friday's focus was on some of the amazing forces of nature that originate underground. First, we learned about volcanoes and some volcano science. Colorado has one volcano in the state, but it has not erupted in many thousand years. We also of course made our own mini volcanoes with vinegar and baking soda!
Next, campers investigated earthquakes. We acted out the different tectonic plates that cause earthquakes, and acted out actions to take on how to stay safe if you are in an earthquake. While not common or severe in Colorado, we still had fun learning about them! We then saved the best for last- geysers! Colorado has only one geyser, and it does not have a large eruption like more famous ones do. Our Leaders in Training had a blast leading the diet coke and mentos geyser eruption experiment!
Lastly, we wrapped up our week with a graduation to celebrate the campers all becoming experts on Colorado Forces of Nature!
SPREE called all budding inventors, architects, and engineers! Campers spent a week designing, building, and inventing while we looked to nature for inspiration.
Monday: Plant Inspiration
We started out our week of camp investigating engineers in nature with plants! Plants are amazing nature engineers from how they grow, how their seeds move, and how they survive. First, we focused on different ways that some native seeds move. There is a wide variety of techniques even in plants we can find around camp! Hitchhiker seeds travel by sticking on to a person or animal, and eventually fall off in a new place. We put socks over our hands and brushed them on the grasses around camp and discovered many seeds sticking to our "fur!" Some seeds we discovered of this variety: burs, goatheads, rabbit brush, wild licorish, and cheatgrass. And did you know the invention of velcro was inpired by these types of seeds? Next, we talked about fruit seeds. They get eaten by animals and come out with scat- ready to grow with fertilizer already there! We made "scat" seed balls with dirt, clay, and seeds. Then, we investigated some seeds that travel by wind, like cottonwood and helicopter seeds from box elder trees. We made our own paper helicopters to demonstrate how these seeds move! Another cool way that some seeds move is by water! Wheatgrass seeds are shaped like tiny canoes to help them float to new places to grow. We made paper boats as well as craft boats to recreate how these seeds travel!
Finally, we wrapped up our day by planting some seeds of our own to take home to grow!
Tuesday: Underground Engineers
There are many cool animals that live underground that are great excavators, diggers, architects, and engineers! First, we talked about a type of tiny engineer that is found nearly all over the world- ants! They can build huge and complex structures underground, just by instinct and communicating by pheremones! We painted our own underground ant structures as a craft after learning more about ant life cycles and the structures they build.
Next, we learned about prairie dogs and the underground towns that they construct! Like ants, they create many rooms, each with a different purpose. We drew our own prairie dog towns, learned about their adaptations, and played a survival game!
We wrapped up our day talking about how and why human engineers work and explained the steps that engineers take to solving a problem: Identify the Problem (What do we need to do? What is our goal?), Brainstorm (the most important step!), Design (blueprint), Build (may be a model version first), Test and Evaluate (Then may need to go back to step 4, until it is perfect and safe and ready-to-go!), and Share the Solution! Then, campers started brainstorming ideas for inventions of their own!
Wednesday: Engineers of the Air
Birds are well known for their engineering skills and creativity when building nests. There are many more types of nests that birds build that you may not think of at first! We first discussed some different types of nests that some Colorado birds build: like a flicker making a cavity nest, a grebe making a floating nest, and a swallow making a mud nest on a bridge! Next, we played an eagle game- did you know bald eagles hold the record for the world's biggest bird nest? Then, we learned about the tiniest bird nest builders, hummingbirds, and made some tiny craft versions ourselves!
Another common type of flying nest builder is bees. Campers learned about many different types of bees, wasps, and yellowjackets that call Colorado home- and about the unique types of nests that each one builds. Then, we focused on an amazing non-native bee engineer, the honey bee! They build amazing hexagon honeycombs and of course make honey! We crafted a honeycomb of our own with some cute bees to go with it!
Thursday: Field Day
Our typical Thursday is when we get to venture over to Vanderbilt park and explore a new area! Today was no exception as campers were on the lookout for human, plant, and animal engineers in the park. We hunted for spider webs, looked for bird nests, and found some cool things in nature through a scavenger hunt. Then, we painted some of the engineers and their structures we saw in watercolors!
We wrapped up the day with a critter crawl in the South Platte River and caught one of the biggest crawdads SPREE has ever seen!
SPREE's favorite type of engineer, actually an ecosystem engineer, is a beaver! Beavers are fantastic builders that can have huge impacts on their environments by changing water flows and creating new habitats for other animals! First, campers focused on learning about beaver adaptations- they have unique bodies suited for their water and land lifestyle and building skills! We had campers dress up as a beaver- complete with flippers, a tail, goggles, and more to discover how they have different bodies than people. Next, we compared and contrasted them to a rodent cousin that they are often easily confused with- muskrats! By the end of the activity, campers were experts in both!
After learning about physical adaptations, campers then focused more on beaver beahvioral adaptations- like their building skills! We made our own mini beaver lodges, played a dam building game, and built mini dams along the river.
Finally, like every Friday, we wrapped up our week with a camper graduation ceremony where we celebrated campers being eco engineering experts!
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!