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 creek to discover what the 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!
Tuesday: How water is collected and treated for use
After the water melts off the mountain tops and trickles into streams and rivers, it is eventually collected in reservoirs to people to eventually use.
To start the day, campers played an interactive game about the water cycle as a water drop and traveled through many stations: Clouds, Plants, Animals, Rivers, Oceans, Lakes, Ground Water, Soil, and Glaciers.
Next, campers got to use an urban watershed model, called an "enviroscape," to conduct experiments on how water moves in a city and may accumulate different pollutants along the way.
Campers then investigated how Denver's water is collected in reservoirs and then cleaned for use in homes and businesses. We built our own mini reservoirs in the sand, and got to conduct an experiment to clean some water we had collected to investigate how drinking water is cleaned before use.
We wrapped up our day by continuing to work on our watershed river model!
Wednesday: Using water and returning it to the waterways
We began our day by discussing the many ways that we use water every day, both directly and indirectly. Then, we acted out and did an activity on how the water is cleaned after it is used. Did you know that 99% of wastewater that goes down our pipes is actually water? All the work in cleaning it goes into the remaining 1% that is the waste.
After use and cleaning, the water is returned back into our waterways! The outfalls at the treatment plants are actually some of the cleanest river areas. To investigate, campers got to become scientists and conduct a health check-up on the creek. They learned how to do each test, and why it is important to the health of the waterway: pH, temperature, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. These tests are all checking on abiotic factors impacting the creek.
Next, campers got to do a check up using biotic factors. We went down to the creek and caught some macroinvertebrates and then sorted them into their different levels of pollution tolerance. We found several types of pollution-sensitive macros, showing us that the creek is in pretty good shape!
Finally, we wrapped up our day with putting the finishing touches on our river model!
Thursday: Storm Water- Field Day
Another important, but often overlooked, component of urban water systems is storm water. Without engineering, planning, and infrastructure, the city would be at great risk for frequent flooding and destruction. We got to start our day off with a special treat- a guest from public works came with a storm drain cleaner truck! We learned about the worker's important job, saw how the hoses and vacuums worked, and got a great refreshing shower from the hose!
Next, we had field day near camp and played games, searched out and investigated storm drains and outfalls, looked at some of Denver's flood control measures (like retaining walls and the park design), and caught more macroinvertebrates in the creek!
Friday: River Features
Now that campers were water system experts, we zoomed in on the creek and river to learn about some river features and anatomy.
We started by learning about one of the challenges of a waterway in a city may pose- floods! Campers studied the creek, took measurements of its depth and speed, and compared the numbers to famous floods in Denver's history.
Next, campers learned about the many features of waterway anatomy and went on an investigation hike upstream and downstream to see if they could find features like: riffles, pools, banks, and more! Then they explored the bottom of the creek to take a closer look at the rocks and silt and imagined the journey these materials have take over many years down from the mountains to get here to Denver!
The campers did an excellent job learning about water systems, engineering, and watersheds this week, and we wrapped it all up with a graduation ceremony to celebrate!