Recently, high school interns from Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design (DSISD) attended one of our holiday camps! They got to see how camp is run and experience the different activities that take place. They also interviewed some of the kids and staff about the holiday camp and SPREE.
On Friday, local SPREE Ornithologists gathered to investigate the raptors of Denver that rely on our River to survive. Campers put their skills to the test as they competed Olympics style against the biggest, fastest raptors around, built the best adapted raptor imagined, and tried their luck at falconry!
In the first activity, campers found themselves training among the best Aves (bird) Olympians around. The Olympic games are less than a week away, and campers were put to the test to see if they could run faster than a Golden Eagle, smell better than a Turkey Vulture, hover in the air longer than a Kestrel, among other challenges! Most found out they have some training to do if they want to compete against these amazing birds, but some were able to beat select raptors in the wingspan competition!
Camper’s braved Denver’s sudden burst of winter Tuesday to get fishy with SPREE! We learned all about local fish and their adaptations that allow them to survive in the urban South Platte River and Colorado. Our mission of the day even hinted about a fish that came back from the dead!
It turns out there are no zombie fish- luckily, but in our first activity, camper’s learned about the South Platte River’s Greenback Cutthroat Trout. This fish, Colorado’s state fish, was presumed extinct in 1937. But, in the 1950s two small populations were found in CO, in the Arkansas River and the South Platte River. Quickly, rehabilitation efforts were started. Today, while not the most common trout in our waterway, Greenback Cutthroat Trout can be caught and released in the city of Denver!
Campers had a blast traveling through time at SPREE holiday camps on November 20-21!
Monday's mission had us focused on exploring the Native American tribes of Colorado's plains. The Arapahoe and Cheyenne lived along the South Platte River for thousands of years and are still around today! We worked on reenacting three different aspects of their daily lives around 200 years ago: food, shelter, and lore.
For our food activities, we focused mainly on hunting- especially bison! These tribes, along with many others, are nomadic. One of the reasons they traveled around is that they were following herds of their main food source- bison. These animals were an integral part of their lives- they had a use for every part of the animal! We played a game to help us figure out what each part was used for. In another part of our activity, we explored different hunting methods that Arapahoe and Cheyenne used. We acted out one method where hunters used to disguise themselves as bison and use a sneak attack!
Camp on November 3rd was all about rocks! Campers turned into geologists and explored the rock cycle, what happens to rocks over time, how the South Platte affects rocks, and learned about some of Colorado's own cool rocks.
First, we started the day with geology basics. We discussed the rock cycle and learned about the three types of rocks: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. Then, we played a game and acted out all of the different steps and processes in the rock cycle.
Next, we went down to the river and collected some small rocks and pebbles. We then put them in a cup and layered in some glue- and made our own sedimentary river rocks!
Our next activity we focused on some Colorado rocks. We started by looking at a cool rock collection and seeing if we could identify the types of rocks. There was amazonite, pyrite, obsidian, granite, quartz, and more! Then we took our geology skills back outside and had a scavenger hunt looking for many different types of rocks in the park and along the river.
In the next activity block, we learned more about what happens to rocks over time. We played a game to help us learn about weathering (breaking down of rocks), erosion (moving sediment to a new place), and deposition (placing sediment to create new land forms). Then, we went back to the river and investigated the rocks there through a new scientific lens. We analyzed the rocks to look for signs of weathering, erosion, and deposition. It's cool to see how the river smooths all of those rocks over time!
We reviewed all of our geology terms with another game, as well as making a "fortune teller" with all of our vocabulary words inside!
Once the day warmed up, we headed down to the South Platte for critter crawl and exploring. We caught many macroinvetebrates and 14 crawdads!
On October 26-27, campers had a great time learning about Fur, Feathers, and Scales with SPREE!
On Thursday, the campers were tasked with a mission to solve a mystery about an unknown animal that left some marks in the mud at the park. We had it narrowed down to three possible critters- a scaly snake, a furry fox, and a feathered burrowing owl. In order to solve the mystery, the campers first had to learn more about these animals and their unique body coverings.
As part of our fur investigation, we first did an experiment to learn about fur's insulative abilities. We put hot water in two jars and took the temperature. One jar we covered with a lid and left as is, the other we put in a box and stuffed some cottonballs around it to act like fur. We later took the temperatures again and discovered the insulated one was significantly warmer than the other! While we waited for our experiment to set, we investigated many furs and pelts of Colorado animals!
Our next animal to investigate was burrowing owls. These cool creatures have been spotted near the airport and other places in Colorado. First, we learned the basics of feathers- we looked at several different types of feathers that birds have. Next, we analyzed feathers under a microscope and learned feather anatomy. We also learned about the many different uses birds have for feathers: waterproofing, camouflage, display, warmth, and flight of course! Then, we discussed burrowing owls and learned about some of their adaptations. They like to scratch on the ground and they usually live in abandoned prairie dog holes. A great suspect for our mystery park guest! We wrapped up this activity block with a fun game acting out being burrowing owls!
Our third activity block started with some investigation of Colorado animals with scales. We brainstormed a list of these animals, and then talked about the advantages and disadvantages of having scales. We learned what scales are made of, and what they are used for, such as: protection, water retention, movement, and more! Next, it was time to focus in more on our mystery animal- a snake! We started by learning more about native snakes, and why they shed their skin. Then, we had a relay race to see who could shed their snake "skin" the fastest! The campers had to put on a fabric sleeve and see if they could wriggle out of it! Once we were all snake experts (herpetologists), we crafted some of our own snakes to take home.
Thursday wrapped up with a hike around the park to look for more clues to help us solve our mystery! We looked for signs of animals such as tracks, scat, fur, feathers, and burrows. We listened for calls and hoots. In the end, the camper investigation teams decided that our mystery park guest must be a fox! We saw some tracks that supported our theory, as well as realizing it was too cold for snakes to be out that day, and we did not find any owl burrows or feathers.
On Friday we continued our fur, feathers, and scales theme.
The furry focus of the day was on Beavers! They have two layers of fur- one is fluffy and warm, and the other, they can coat in oil and have it waterproof while they are swimming! We got to investigate a beaver pelt and feel the two different layers of fur. We also did an experiment with oil and water we put together in a jar to see how they do not mix! Next, we learned all about beavers' building skills and the difference between their lodge homes and dams. To help demonstrate, we built our own mini beaver homes!
During our feathered animal investigation, we went on a mini hike to Vanderbilt park. We got to see many types of ducks and birds on our way there and back- as well as on the pond! We saw geese, gadwall ducks, mallard ducks, pigeons, a kestrel, and more! We talked about how different kinds of birds have different kinds of feathers. Some are lighter and better for flying, while other specially interlock to help keep the bird waterproof. After our exploration hike, we played a game about molting- it is sort of like shedding, but for birds!
Our last investigative activity was about scales. We learned about the western hognose snake, rattle snakes, and other native Colorado snakes. We played a game about dispelling snake myths and learned a lot! Did you know snakes move five different ways? They don't just do the "worm!" (It's hard work- we tried it out!) With all of our newfound knowledge, we made snake information posters, and told some silly snake jokes, too!
To wrap up the day, we combined all of our knowledge about fur, feathers, and scales into one! Each camper was given a unique habitat description and had to invent a new animal that could survive in that habitat. Some animals had fur, some had feathers, some had scales, and some had all three!