Over "Time Travelers" week, SPREE summer campers had a blast discovering many different phases of Colorado's history. On Monday, we were back in "deep time" learning about this area's geologic history. We analyzed rocks, mapped out dinosaur fossil finds in Colorado, drew a mural of what a river would have looked like millions of years ago, and even made fossils of our own!
Tuesday's focus was on slighlty more recent history- but still all the way back to early tribes and megafauna! We learned about some giant animals that used to roam the forests and plains, made plaster "cave art," and even made a model of an ancient Pueblo building. We also learned about some history of the Pueblo people and reenacted some of their daily lives by making traditional crafts such as clay pinch pots and beaded art.
Wednesday had us move to a little more recent time, around the 1700s, where we learned about Native American tribes that lived in our area then, and still today! Campers had a fantastic time practicing "hunting" skills through making animal disguises and playing games- such as practicing aim through a hoop and dart game that kids of these tribes used to play. Another way we learned about Arapahoe and Cheyenne traditions was through art. We made some of our own sand art inspired by sand paintings that were designed to help heal sick tribespeople. We also got to hear traditional fables, and write and, act out some of our own stories! One of our own River Rangers also talked to the campers about some of her own Native American heritage!
On Thursday, campers were introduced to the Europeans that started coming West to explore and start fur trading. We acted out some aspects of the daily lives that these "mountain men" (and women!) would have faced. We went on field day at nearby Confluence Park, painted water color landscapes, caught macroinvertebrates with our kick-net, and went on a trolley ride!
Friday's focus was on pioneers and prospectors of the 1800s. Campers had a blast playing pioneer games like a 3-legged racing, potato sack races, and kick the can! We also made some pioneer-inspired art by making aluminum-punch pictures. Our whirlwind travels through time wrapped up with gold panning in the river- where many campers found magnatite, garnet, quartz, and even a few flakes of gold. After a great week, we also had a graduation ceremorny for our new Colorado history experts!
This week at camp, campers broke out the butterfly nets, magnifying lenses, and bug boxes as they explored the secret lives of mini-beasts! Insects and other tiny critters often get overlooked as animals, but campers this week had a great time learning about their amazing adaptations.
On Monday, we focused on herbivorous (plant eating) insects. We acted out bee adaptations and how they pollinate plants while looking for nectar. Another cool plant- eating insect we learned about are butterflies, and their larval stage, caterpillars. We acted out the lives of caterpillars in a obstacle race, and learned about symmetry in nature while making our own paper butterflies.
Our focus switched to carnivorous insects on Tuesday. We first learned about the amazing hunting skills and adaptations of the praying mantis. Next, we investigated an insect that isn't usually remembered as a predator- ladybugs! We discovered their unique life cycle (and realized that there are more ladybugs in the park than we thought!), and acted out their lives and hunting skills through some games. While doing critter crawl, we also discovered carnivorous insects in the water- dragonfly nymphs! We also had a special guest presentation from the Butterfly Pavillion come in on Tuesday. We learned even more cool facts about mini-beasts and invertebrates and got to meet some very cool hissing cockroaches they brought!
On Wednesday we learned about a different type of mini-beasts, arachnids! Arachnids aren't insects. They have 8 legs, and have different body types and adaptations than insects do. We dispelled some myths about spiders, learned about different types of spiders, and went on a spider hunt. We created spider gliders, made a spider web craft, and played a spider web game! During critter crawl, we learned about and looked for fishing spiders!
Tuesday's focus was on aquatic (or semi-aquatic) creatures. The state fish is the greenback cutthroat trout, which was once thought to be extinct in our state! It was later rediscovered and then made Colorado's state fish. Campers learned about trout habitat, and explored the creek for signs that trout could live there. The state amphibian is the tiger salamander- it is found in all of Colorado's counties! We played games to help us learn about their metamorphic life cycle and how they can regrow their tails if it gets nibbled off by a predator! We also learned about their porous and slimy skin by making our own slime! The state reptile is also semi-aquatic, the painted turtle. Campers explored what it means to be cold blooded, learned the differences between terrestrial and aquatic turtles, and crafted little mini turtles to take home.
We took a field trip to the Colorado state capitol on Thursday! We got a great tour, got to look out over Denver from the dome, and learned lots of cool history about our city and state. It was an awesome (and exhausting) trip!
Our week wrapped up with Colorado rocks and fossils. After learning the differences between rocks, minerals and gemstones, we could learn which ones are Colorado state symbols: yule marble, rhodochrosite, and aquamarine respectively. Campers learned how these rocks form, played rock bingo in the park, and made their own rock "friend" to take home. Finally, we made it to learning about our state fossil, the stegosaurus! We used silhouettes to make a skeleton, studied the natural history of Colorado dinsosaurs, and learned about dino adaptations. As always, we finished our week with a graduation ceremony!
During this week of SPREE Summer Camp, the kids had a blast becoming different types of scientists each day! On Monday, the campers were botanists. They learned about plant anatomy, investigated how different types of seeds travel, and planted some seeds of their own.
A flock of ornithologists packed camp on Tuesday! Campers investigated different types of bird beaks, made bird feeders, dissected owl pellets, and, met some birds brought by a fantastic guest speaker- Nature's Educators!
On Wednesday the campers became meteorologists and learned about many types of weather. We made mini rain and storm clouds while investigating how storms develop, identified different cloud types, and made some of our own weather- measuring and detecting tools. We wrapped up the day by learning about some extreme weather that can happen in Colorado- tornadoes and volcanoes!
On Thursday, campers were budding ecologists as we went on a field day to a nearby park and investigated the plants and animals there. We discovered how they all interact in a complex food web. We played games, caught critters in the creek, and went on a nature hike.
We rocked Friday by becoming geologists. We acted out the rock cycle- how rocks form and change over time (millions of years!). Campers learned to identify some Colorado rocks, and even got to find a "rock friend" to take home. Our week then wrapped up our week with a graduation ceremony.
Summer campers at SPREE HQ had a fantastic week getting "inspired by nature!" On Monday, all of our nature art projects were about color. First, we made natural dyes and painted pictures with them. One set was made with plants and spices like turmeric, spinach, and strawberries! Another we made with mud and food coloring! Another color project we worked on was swirled colors made from household objects. We made one picture with swirled colors made of vegetable oil and food coloring. Another was made with shaving cream! We wrapped up our colorful day with tie dye!
Campers enjoyed another great guest artist on Wednesday! Paul from Originateve came and worked with campers to make homemade felt from sheeps wool! Our other projects of the day were focused on making art outside and art with found materials. We made animal sculptures with items from nature, and rock mandalas near the river.
Campers brought art to life on Friday with movement and performance! We made puppets, put on a puppet show, and we made our own musical instruments! Then, we celebrated our wonderful week with a graduation ceremony!
SPREE summer campers this week became water experts during Water Engineers camp! We started by learning more about what an engineer does, and what the engineering process looks like. We did an activity to figure out the typical order of the engineering steps:
1. Identify the Problem (What do we need to do? What is our goal?)
2. Brainstorm (the most important step!)3. Design (blueprint)
4. Build (may be a model/prototype at first)
5. Test and Evaluate (Then may need to go back to step 4, until it is perfect and safe and ready-to-go! Or even go back to steps 2-3)
6. Share the Solution
Monday's focus was on many different forms of River engineering. One activity was on bridges. We learned about many types of bridges and how they work. Then, we constructed our own mini river bridges with limited materials and tested them out with different weights on top. Another river engineering feat we learned about and modeled was locks and dams. We learned about how they work, looked at some real locks and dams in the creek, and made some models and tested them with some mini boats we built!
"The power of water" was the theme for Tuesday! Campers learned about the unique skills and properties that water has, as well as the power it has that people can harness for work and energy. First, campers learned about hydropower- how it is harnessed and how it works. Then, we built our own models of waterwheels and tried them out in the creek!
On Wednesday, campers learned about a different aspect of water engineering- water quality! First, we experimented with our enviroscape. An enviroscape is a model of a city that shows how pollution and runoff in cities and rural areas get into and affect waterways. Then, we made a model water filtration system using rocks, dirt, sand, and other natural materials. while not safe to drink, we got some very cool and successful results! During our daily critter crawl, we learned more about water quality through the animals that live in the creek. Did you know that different macroinvertebrates have different tolerances to pollution levels? We caught many critters and sorted them into their water-quality indicator groups. The Cherry Creek is home to many pollution sensitive groups! Another cool thing that campers got to do on Wednesday is work with a guest educator, Donny Roush, from Denver public works. He worked with the campers to do a scientific check up on the creek. Campers did different tests that help us see the health of the waterway and learned more about water quality in Denver.
Our field day took place on Thursday. The campers walked to nearby Confluence Park to investigate and play at the place where the two major waterways, the South Platte River and the Cherry Creek meet up. We played lots of games to beat the heat and looked for critters in the confluence.
Friday's focus was on the "Clean River Design Challenge." Campers were tasked with putting all of their gained water engineering skills and knowlege to the test to build miniature trash removal devices for the cherry creek. This was inspired by a competition that The Greenway Foundation hosts annualy, in which college students from several Colorado universities compete to design, build, and ultimately implement their in-stream trash removal devices. Campers were thrilled to have the CRDC event coordinator as well as a member from 2018's winning team as guest speakers for the day. They brought several models from the competition with that served as inspiration for campers' designs.
Campers did a great job learning about and experimenting with many different aspects of water engineering this week! We wrapped up our day and week with a graduation ceremony to celebrate.
The last week of June took campers on a journey- a journey of the South Platte River!
On Monday, campers started in the mountains, learning about where and how the South Platte begins. We made our own mini mountain models and discovered how snow melt forms into creeks, streams, and eventually rivers. And, we learned about how Colorado is the headwaters state, and that all of the water in Colorado flows out into other states.
We built miniature watershed models demonstrating how water gets to Denver through the transmountain diversion and how it is then distributed and used throughout the city.
On Tuesday, the focus was on how people in Colorado use and utilize the river as a resource. We played games about irrigation, explored native and non-native plants, dug miniature reserviors, and built our own model water-treatment plants.
Field Day was on Wednesday! We explored a new nearby park and learned about our local waterways with a hands-on activities. First, we investigated the storm drains that were nearby camp. These inlets and outfalls are where rainwater and snowmelt drain away from streets and sidewalks so that the city doesn't flood. Campers learned that this storm water goes straight from the streets to the creeks and river, with no filtering- even when the water picks up debris and trash on the way. Campers had a blast volunteering to pick up some trash in the park with grabbers and gloves to help prevent it from going into the river through the storm drain.
Thursday and Friday were dedicated to the animals of the South Platte in Denver. On Thursday, we focused on the larger, vertebrate river dwellers. Campers acted out the lives and skills of beavers, made prints with native fish, and learned about Colorado's state fish- the Greenback Cutthroat Trout.
On Friday we zoomed in ever further on the South Platte. We caught, looked at, and learned about macroinvertebrates such as crawdads, clams, and dragonfly nymphs. Then, we got to look at some microscopic life, too! We used microscopes to look at and learn about some of the tiniest critters and particles that are in the river water. We especially liked learning about tardigrades, or water bears. They are tiny, near indestructible microscopic creatures that have many cool adaptations that allow them to survive in a wide variety of environments- even space!
Next, we did some scientific tests to give the river a "check up." We tested the dissolved oxygen levels, pH, turbidity (clarity of the water), and took its temperature. With these test results, combined with the pollution intolerant critters we found, we were able to determine that the River is pretty healthy!
After a week of learning about the South Platte's journey, the expert campers had a graduation ceremony!
The last week of June, went by in a “SPLASH” as campers at the Train learned and practiced skills they could use when they are unplugged, exploring the outdoors. Whether it was skills used to survive in the wilderness or enjoying the outdoors safely, by the end of the week, campers and staff alike were ready for a long Fourth of July holiday exploring the front and back country of Colorado!
On Monday, we focused on teamwork. In any outdoor situation, campers learned the importance of working together. Campers had to accomplish challenges and tasks while working and communicating with their team. With some partner groups clicking right away and easily completed the tasks!
Tuesday, we focused on the principles of Leave No Trace. All day, whether we were on land or in the water, campers thought of ways that we can enjoy the environment without negatively impacting the plants, animals, and other park users. Through fun games & looking for critters in the Creek we made sure to take extra care to leave no trace!
We switched gears on Wednesday, getting campers down on the ground to further explore how our environment can help us stay safe while adventuring in the outdoors. The day included, learning about Colorado animals and making guide books. Afterwords, gaining knowledge of forged foods in the state and finding critters during Critter Crawl.
With scorching temperatures, Thursday was the perfect day for water activities. One of the best ways to stay safe in your environment, is to stay hydrated and cool down. For some campers, today was their first time rafting and even for the experienced paddlers, the highlight of their day! We also had a special guest, from Denver Parks and Recreation, came into teach us about all of the cool animals we can find in our park! Other activities, included build their own “mini” survival hut and cooling off with the ever popular game, “Drip, Drip, Drop”. Even with the heat, we were all feeling cooled down and happy throughout the day.
By Friday, campers and staff alike, were raring to get outdoors and use their newly specialized skills! There was still one especially relevant topic to cover- fire! This fire season has been a vibrant one, and there was no lack of discussion with campers about this fascinating but dangerous phenomenon. Campers learned about the Fire Triangle- oxygen, heat & fuel- the three ingredients that all fires need! They also learned some "camping hacks" like making a lantern for the times when fire bans are in effect, or how to use the sun to tell time! SPREE hopes everyone enjoyed their holiday- and were able to get outside to explore our City!