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.
Tuesday: Macroinvertebrates that Evolve
After covering macros that don't evolve on Monday, campers got to delve into the diverse and incredible world of evolving aquatic insects! Many macros that live underwater live there for the majority of their lives, even years, before evolving to a land animals for the last short portion of their lives.
First, we learned about one of SPREE's favorite macro insects to find in the water- dragonfly nymphs! We had a camper dress up as a dragonfly nymph as we learned about their many amazing adaptations. Next, we made our own craft dragonfly!
Then, we played some games where the campers got to act out the adaptations and movement of many river macros including caddisflies, stone flies, craneflies, and mayflies! In another game, we learned how black fly larva catch their prey in the water.
When we went down to the creek to investigate the macros in the water, we learned that they all have different pollution tolerances. We got catching critters and sorted them out- and found many macros that have very low tolerance for pollution, a great sign for our waterways!
Some of the coolest critters in the creek are crawdads! SPREE educators and campers alike love these creatures so much that we dedicated an entire day to them!
Our first activity of the day focused on crawdad anatomy and adaptations. We dressed up a camper as a crawdad with antennae, pincers, extra legs, and more! Then, campers got to try and experience life with an exoskeleton firsthand with another adaptation activity.
Next, we learned about many crawdad survival skills. We played a game to discover the types of food crawdads eat. And, we played a game of crawdad hide and seek as they are experts at hiding in the water!
Then of course we went into creek to try our hand at catching crawdads! Many SPREE campers love catching these creatures and finding them in the water- they are actually quite common in Denver! We wrapped up the day with singing one of the SPREE force special agent songs about Crusher the crawdad!
Thursday: Fish and Beavers
As we neared the end of the week, we spent our last two camp days learning about even more water-dwelling creatures of Denver waterways- fish and beavers!
First, we learned about Colorado's state fish- the Greenback Cutthroat Trout. We played a trout board game to learn about trout in Colorado, and played trout tag to learn about trout predators and prey.
Next, we learned about some fish adaptations by making some fish prints, looking for small fish in the water, and playing fishy slime tag!
We wrapped up our day by playing some beaver games- "beavers and lodges" and "be the beaver."
Friday: Fabulous Fish
We were so excited to have guests from Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) to help us learn even more about Colorado fish! Their high school educators taught the campers about fish adaptations, taught them about macroinvertebrates, lead them through a fishy game, and the campers even got to practice some fishing skills! We finished up our week with one more critter crawl for the week, then wrapped it all up with a graduation ceremony for all of our expert underwater investigator campers!