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!
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!
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!