The Greenway Foundation education staff geared up to start field trips next week with excursion training today. But as it was also the day of the solar eclipse, we started the day with a little crafting and made our own solar eclipse viewing devices. And when the time rolled around, we paused to stare at the sky (using proper tools and techniques, of course).
To keep celebrating this exciting phenomenon, here are three fun solar eclipse facts that you may not know yet:
Today is particularly special because it’s trajectory is exclusive to the United States for the first time in over 100 years! It’s also the first time a total eclipse of the sun is visible from the contiguous U.S. since 1979. The next one we’ll be able to see from the states is in 2024, so we won’t have to wait as long next time.
The total eclipse can be viewed widely in about 10 states, and totality typically lasts no longer than two minutes and 40 seconds. This timing can change based on the year, though.
Total solar eclipses won’t always happen...but we will have to wait a while before they’re not a thing anymore. Like 600 million years. Scientists say there will be no more total solar eclipses in about 600 million years because of the moon’s slowly increasing orbit. NASA believes the moon will have moved far enough away from Earth in that time that it will no longer be big enough to entirely cover the sun. The diameter of the Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun… but by amazing coincidence right now it’s also 400 times closer to the Earth. So when that’s not true anymore, we won’t have any more total solar eclipses.
SPREE campers became artists this week and created nature-inspired art pieces, from mud art to mandalas. We even met a special guest, local Denver artist Michele Brown, and helped her paint a canvas mural inspired by our waterways.
To start the week, we painted with mud and shaving cream and and did our own color experiments. We even used our handprints, sticks, and yarn to make tree art. Campers had fun making their own unique paint brushes from natural items and you can, too, just read the instructions here. Campers wowed staff and park users with their intricate nature mandalas, using rocks, sticks, and other items found in the park.
Local artist Michele Brown visited camp mid-week and instructed campers in painting. Campers worked in small groups to add to a canvas mural of fish that will be hung up in SPREE Headquarters in Johnson Habitat Park later this year.
Later in the week, we made suncatcher wind chimes and our own paper art. Check out this awesome moving paper fish craft here. We also made our own crystals, which was a popular activity with campers. (See the recipe below.)
We ended the week with a field day where we created our own musical instruments from items found in the park and also wrote poems.
Do these activities sound fun? Join SPREE for our Holiday Camps (when DPS is off school) during the school year. You can see our themes and find out more here.
Make Your Own Crystals- Recipe
Materials: jars, borax, water, pipe cleaners pipe cleaners, string, Pencils or wooden skewers, scissors, liquid measuring cup, tablespoon, heat safe mixing bowl, hot water heater/microwave
Curve a pipe cleaner or half of one. It will need to fit in a jar without touching the sides. Tie the pipe cleaner to the stick so it can hang in the jar. Pour the solution into the jar to fully cover the pipe cleaner. These will sit overnight as the crystals form!
**To prepare the borax solution: 1 hot/boiling cup water : 1 tablespoon borax. Stir thoroughly!
For SPREE’s Junior Park Ranger summer camp theme, campers got to meet Denver Park Rangers and also did a service project.
Campers started off the week by learning to identify native plants along the Cherry Creek and South Platte River. We even made our own “seed bombs” and plant paper. Campers also created field guides focused on our urban wildlife. We learned about the special talents of “nuisance” animals, such as the raccoon’s amazing sense of touch.
We also explored our parks and made our own maps and signs. We brainstormed park ranger duties, and then had some laughs acting these out with a game of charades. Campers were treated to a guest presentation from Denver Park Rangers, who brought in a selection of local plants, pelts, and skulls and also discussed their daily duties helping the public along the trails and in the parks.
SPREE campers were even able to give back to our parks with a day of service. This included cleaning up trash along the Cherry Creek, pulling weeds along the Cherry Creek by Joe Shoemaker School, and protecting trees from beavers at Overland Pond Park.
Want to learn more about Denver’s Parks? Visit their website here. You can even make your own park ranger vest like we did by using the instructions here.
SPREE also has a Junior River Ranger program for middle school students. Click here to find out more about being a SPREE Junior River Ranger at our upcoming Fall Holiday Camps and 2018 Summer Camps.
This July, the Greenway Leadership Corps and High School River Rangers traveled to Phantom Canyon Ranch to work on a trail building project with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV).
Greenway Leadership Corps (GLC) is a group for Denver-based high school students to learn more about the environment and become active, informed citizens. Once a month, we have a GLC event, which ranges from volunteer opportunities, professional development workshops, or outdoor adventures.
Our High School River Rangers are high school students who work at our SPREE summer day camp, teaching lessons and activities, as well as learning about environmental education through daily workshops.
For this trail building trip these two groups come together to hang out and get to know each other, while spending time in a beautiful, natural space and working on trails!
TNC has a beautiful 1,200 acre preserve - or about 4 river miles - and it’s one of the last roadless river canyons in the front range of Northern Colorado. This makes it not only exquisitely beautiful and pristine, but also a vital and valuable wildlife corridor. This was our fifth year working with TNC and WRV on a trail building project at this site. This year we tackled three staircases and replanted willows along the Cache la Poudre River. We had a fabulous time exploring the area, stargazing and playing in the river when we weren’t working. Check out this video a student participant made of our time there!
A huge thanks to all of our participants, as well as TNC and WRV for helping make this trip a success. We can’t wait for next year!