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.
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!
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.
From storms to tornadoes and earthquakes to volcanoes, campers learned about many amazing forces of nature that have shaped Colorado’s past and will be a part of its future.
Monday: Meteorologists in Training
To start off the week, campers learned some meteorologist skills and some storm basics. First, campers did an experiment to learn the answer to the age-old question, "why is the sky blue?" We put a flashlight up to a milk and water mixture to see how the liquid, just our our atmosphere scatters blue light that we see. Next, we learned more about storms, what their classifications mean, and how they work. We did an experiment with food coloring and shaving cream to make rain clouds and another with colored ice in cold and warm water to see the two "fronts" come together to make a storm! We also made tornadoes in soda bottles, and learned what to do to stay safe in a tornado.
We wrapped up our first day with exploring in the creek and investigating how different types of weather could affect the water and the plants and animals that live there.
Bison, bobcats, and bears, oh my! SPREE campers spent a week exploring the major ecosystems of Colorado and the plants animals that make them unique.
Campers started their exploration of Colorado ecosystems in the mountains where the South Platte River and many other waterways begin. Campers did some experiments to investigate what mountains are, what they are made of, learned mountain anatomy, and how they act as Colorado's "water towers!" Then, we got to explore the river to feel connected to the water from the mountains.
Next, we learned about some Colorado mountain animals! Ungulates, animals with hooves, are one of the kinds of animals that are specially adapted to living in the mountains. Our state mammal, the bighorn sheep, lives in the Rocky Mountains! Campers made some sheep marionettes and learned some cool facts about them while acting out some of their behaviors.
Campers joined SPREE as we looked to the River 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 sidewalk in front of camp. We also made chalk out of paint and plaster to take home after it dried overnight.
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 river as some of these mountain mountain men and women would have, too!
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, goatheads, rabbit brush, wild licorish, and cheatgrass. And did you know the invention of velcro was inpired 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! Wheatgrass 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!
Summer campers had a great time learning about many Colorado "Creepy Creatures" over the week of June 10-14! Whether you love creepy creatures or they give you the heebie-jeebies, these critters are a part of Colorado! Campers joined us for a week of learning about animals like spiders, bats, and snakes while we learned facts, dispelled myths, and found that they may be cool creatures after all!
Monday: Slimy Scaries
We kicked off the week with learning about some creatures that may be slimy and scary! But we discovered that not all of these creatures were slimy after all! Campers started by becoming Colorado snake experts. We learned about the many snakes that call Colorado home, analyzed shedded snake skin and talked about its importance to snakes, played some snake games, and even got to meet one of the River Ranger's pet ball python that she brought in to say hello (and she wasn't slimy at all!).
The next animals we learned about really were slimy! Leeches and worms are common in Colorado waterways and underground. We learned about some cool adaptations that these animal cousins have, discovered how they are both important in their ecosystems, and got to go into the River to try and catch some! (Leeches and aquatic worms can both be found in the South Platte!)
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!