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!
Tuesday: Drip Drop and Evil Drip Drop
As we started our dive into the characters of the SPREE Force on Tuesday, we learned about Drip Drop, who likes to clean and conserve water, and Evil Drip Drop, who likes to pollute and waste water. Through these good and evil twins, we learned how to conserve water, keep water clean, and potential ways water can be wasted and polluted.
To learn a little more about how water works, we did a few activities on the water cycle- especially how water works in a city. There is a natual water cycle that is always moving and changing water in our environment, but there are many man-made systems that we all depend on to keep water clean and available to use. We also acted out a story that showed us how even though we do our best to take care of our city's water, there are ways that we might not realize that we negatively impacting the waterways. But, there are many easy things we can do to help prevent this! We even investigated at camp on how much water a leaky faucet would waste in just a day! To wrap up, we worked together through an activity showing us that while there is a huge amount of water on Earth, there is very little of it that is fresh, and a precious small amount that we are able to use!
For our special agent training portion of the day, we honed our teamwork skills by playing games focused on critical thinking, agility, and working together! And of course, we got to get into the water and cool off while catching crawdads and macroinvertebrates.
Wednesday: Energy Star and Energy Leech
Energy Star and Energy Leech are two more SPREE Force characters who are constantly at odds-one trying to conserve energy, and the other is trying to waste it! At camp on Wednesday, we learned how we use energy in our daily lives, how energy use is tied to the environment, and how we can make smart energy choices at home and camp.
We invented and played our own board game, made "Wanted" posters for the Energy Leech, and made lightswitch covers to help us remember to turn off our lights.
Next, we got to use a cool renewable source of energy to help give us a snack- we used a solar oven (made from a pizza box and tinfoil) to cook some s'mores we got to have as a delicious snack! We then tried to burn off our own energy, calories, by doing some activities around camp. But after we got warmed up from that, we got to cool down by making our own cooling bandanas!
For critter crawl today, we learned a little bit about how water can be used as an energy source before we ventured in to catch and investigate more water-dwelling creatures.
Thursday: Defeat the Couch Potato
Campers went on a field day, worked on more special agent skills, and worked to defeat the villain that is occasionally found in all of us- a couch potato!
At the Cherry Creek Train, campers walked over to Confluence park for field day. HQ campers headed over to nearby Vanderbilt park. Campers spent the day exploring the new space, participating in silly games like a disguise relay, and making crafts back at camp.
Friday: Trash Monster
The Trash Monster is the SPREE Force's archnemisis! He loves to eat trash, spread trash around the city and it's waterways, and spread pollution wherever he can. Now that the campers were expert special agents after honing their skills all week, they were finally up to the task of taking him on!
First the campers learned about one of the Trash Monster's secret transportation systems- storm drains! We learned that storm drains are designed to help keep the city safe from floods, but they can also be a trash transport system! We identified some storm drains and outfalls near camp, played storm drain tag, and played a storm drain relay game!
Next, we worked with our engineering minds and designed and built Trash Monster trap prototypes!
Then, we were able to get wet to cool off and make sure we completed Crusher's challenge for us this week- for everyone to hold a crawdad!
Our awesome special agent week wrapped up with a graduation ceremony. Everyone got to take home their special agent passport and a sticker to help remember the week!
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 River 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.
For our field day on Thursday, we went to nearby Vanderbilt park. We explored the pond and park, identified native plants and animals, and played lots of games about native Colorado animals!
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!
Summer campers at the Cherry Creek Train 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, blueberries, 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.
Thursday was field trip day! We trekked to the Denver Art Museum and saw many awesome pieces of art that were inspired by nature! Campers especially enjoyed making art at the many creation stations throughout the museum.
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, made some models, and tested them with some mini boats we built!
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 because it was just filtered and not sanitized, 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 River. 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 South Platte River is home to many pollution sensitive groups! Another cool thing that campers got to do on Wednesday was work with a guest educator, who worked with them to do a scientific check up on the River. Campers did different chemical 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 Vanderbilt Park to investigate and play! We played lots of games to beat the heat and looked for critters in River.
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 South Platte River. 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. And, one of Greenway's board members, Sarah Dominick, who works with Denver Water, came to share her expertise with the campers as well as help build and evaluate the 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.
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 went on a mini field trip to Larimer Square with our special guest, Lauren from The Greenway Foundation. She showed us a new installation of a storm water filtration device that was recently installed by The Greenway Foundation! We learned that all stormwater in Denver, regarless of what trash, debris, or even chemicals it picks up, flows into storm drains and right into waterways like the Cherry Creek without any treatment or filtration. This new storm drain helps catch trash and even chemicals and oils and prevents them from getting into Denver's waterways. We saw that the device was working when Lauren opened it up and we got to peek at all the trash inside!
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.
SPREE campers and families had a blast at the 5th annual SPREE Summer Campout in Johnson Habitat park this park weekend! Eight adventurous families enjoyed cooking dinner outside, exploring in the River, and sleeping under the stars!
After all that activity, we had worked up quite and appetite! For dinner, we made "pudgie pies in the campfire! And no campout would be complete without s'mores!
Thanks to all those who came out! Hope to see you all again year for another fantatstic event!
This week at SPREE HQ, campers delved into local ecosystems and explored the food webs of the parks and waterways of Denver. We started off with the basics: learning what all living things need to survive. All living things need: air, water, soil/food, and sunshine! We planted our own little bean seeds to see if this would prove true (and they did grow during the week!). We also learned about another very important aspect of food chains on Monday as well, "FBIs!" Fungus, Bacteria, Insects, and Scavengers are very important to food webs and ecosystems because they help balance everything out. They help to break down things that are dead, and make new resources for the other living things to survive. And, we learned that even though we can't see it, bacteria are everywhere! We collected some samples from around camp, and grew some little bacteria colonies in agar plates over the week! To wrap up our day, we played a fun tag game outside where everyone got to play a role in the food web!
On Tuesday, we took our knowledge about food webs and applied to our own park. We learned to identify some plants around camp, acted out predator and prey relationships of local animals, and explored the river and how it connects to the park food web. Then, we started our project of making ecosystem dioramas.
We switched our focus to the river food web on Wednesday. We learned about different types of aquatic plants that live in the water, discovered the crazy adapations of some aquatic macroinvertebrates, and made some craft dragonflies. Then, we caught some critters in the river and sorted them by where they sit in the food web.
Thursday was field day! We walked to nearby Commons park to explore the food webs of plants, animals, and the pond there. We did scavenger hunts, played games, and looked for signs of animals that live in the park that we couldn't see.
The week wrapped up with a day themed around ecosystem engineers and keystone species. We did activities about how different animals big and small such as wolves, bees, and beavers have huge impacts on the food webs and ecosystems that they live in.
Then, as always, we wrapped up the week with a graduation ceremony for all the campers!
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 River 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 campers worked on gaining knowledge of forged foods in the state and finding critters during Critter Crawl.
Thursday was the perfect day for water activities at nearby Overland Pond Park. One of the best ways to stay safe in your environment, is to stay hydrated and cooled 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 critter crawl and making miniature shelters.
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! We celebrated the end of our week with a graduation ceremony before the campers headed home.
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!