Campers took a peek under the River’s surface and discovered the secret lives of the plants and animals that live there. They found the crawdads, clams, and many other creatures that call our urban waterways home!
Monday: Plants and Macroinvertebrates
The mission for our SPREE campers this week was to become underwater investigators of the waterways of Denver. We started the week by looking at some underwater plants and tiny animals. The tiny animals are called aquatic macroinvertebrates. We first helped campers break down the words. Aquatic = water, Macro = big enough to see with the naked eye, Invertebrate = no backbone. The creatures we learned about throughout the week live in the water, don’t have a backbone, and can be seen without a microscope. In our waterways, we frequently see two types of macros- ones that evolve, and ones that do not. Today, we focused on macros that don't evolve. First, we learned about clams! We have some in Denver- they are filter feeders that even help filter and clean the water that they live in! We also learned about leeches and aquatic worms. They also don't evolve, but still play key roles in the river ecosystem! We played a leech game to learn about how they move and communicate in the water. Then, we got to explore in the creek and catch some of these critters and learn about them hands-on!
Next, campers learned about some different types of water plants. We learned about three types: emergent, that grow from the bottom of the water and stick out of the surface; floating, which live on top of the water's surface; and submergent, plants that live exclusively underwater. We acted out the different plant types and made a craft diorama of the different plants living in the water.
Campers joined SPREE as we looked to the River, Creek, and parks for inspiration for paintings, sculptures, performances, and more. We also worked with a local Denver artist to make an awesome project together!
Monday: 2D Art
Campers started off the week with 2-dimensional art. First, we tried our hand at some photography! Campers used disposable cameras (a new skill for many!) to take photos of inspiring nature in the park for use in a project later in the week after the pictures get developed.
Next, we made two kinds of chalk to use at camp and take home! We made bright colors of wet chalk paint out of cornstarch and food coloring to make a mural on the wall behind camp.
To wrap up our day, campers started work on an individual or group art piece. We talked about the process of making art, brainstorming ideas, and getting a start on our ideas and supply lists.
Campers delved into early Colorado’s past as we reenacted the lives of settlers, pioneers, and prospectors.
Monday: Mountain Men and Women
Campers kicked off the week learning about Colorado before it became a state, and, about some of the people who came West to explore it in the early 1800s. These mountain men and women were typically fur trappers and explorers. Many have Colorado landmarks named after them, like Pike's Peak for Zebulon Pike! After learning some facts and history of some of these historic figures, campers then reenacted some of their lives through making journals to record notes and discoveries in, as well as making some explorer vests! Then, we made a DIY compass to help us explore, and went on a scavenger hunt to learn about some of the important things that these explorers used day to day, or were looking for in their travels- like a beaver pelt and feather pens. We wrapped up the day "fishing" in the creek as some of these mountain mountain men and women would have, too!
This week at SPREE camp, campers followed a drop of water through the water systems of Colorado as it flowed through streams, waited in reservoirs, traveled across mountains, got cleaned in treatment plants, used in homes, and went down drains.
Monday: Where does our water come from?
All of our water in Denver comes from snow melt in the mountains! Campers started off their week at camp investigating how a watershed works through activities, building models, and conducting experiments.
Next, campers discovered how the water in our waterways in Colorado connect to others throughout the country- and even to the ocean! We analyzed maps, made our bodies into a map of some major US rivers, and then got into the river to discover what one of Denver's waterways looks like first hand!
We wrapped up our day by starting off our all-camp collaborative 3-D model of a waterway's journey through many different landscapes it goes through in Colorado. We started with big features like the river flowing down mountains and between buildings today!
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, goat heads, rabbit brush, wild licorish, and cheat grass. And did you know the invention of velcro was inspired 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! Wheat grass 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!
Ever wonder what it takes to care for a park in the city? This week, campers discovered what it takes to become a steward of the South Platte River by learning about native plants and animals, doing a service project, and educating others about the River.
Monday: Rangers Know their Park
Campers kicked off the week the best way SPREE could think of- with learning about scat of course! We studied scat (rubber replicas, not real thankfully!) and tracks of some animals that could be found in the park. We also played a track/animal matching memory game to learn some animal tracks from around the world.
After learning about these "bio clues," our next thing to investigate was plants. We learned to identify many of the native plants found in and around the park, used some plant guide books, and made some plant rubbings from around the park. We then got to plant some native wildflower seeds of our own!
Now that campers had learned about plants and land animals of the park, it was time to investigate what lives in the water! We did our first critter crawl of the week- we waded in the river and caught some crawdads and macroinvertebrates!
Tuesday: Rangers Educate Others
Campers and staff did a service project with a park worker from Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR). We learned a little more about how and why people take care of parks, and then did a trash sweep in Johnson Habitat park. As we had been learning throughout the week so far, one problem that park rangers regularly face (and work to help solve!) is trash in parks. After the service project, campers learned about trash facts (did you know it can take 200 years for an aluminum can to break down?) and learned what can and can't be recycled at camp- and why! We cooled off at the end of the day with another critter crawl in the river.