It always seems that when school is out in Denver, we have a snow storm. Denver was a tropical forest during the time of the dinosaurs, however on Monday and Tuesday we experienced a very different climate when campers learned about dinosaurs and the prehistoric Denver landscape.
Monday it snowed all day as campers dug deep into Colorado’s past and the prehistoric creatures that roamed it. The first activity, campers broke down the 640 million year animal history of earth into 100 ft. This made it a bit easier to visualize when events took place in the past. While walking the 100 ft. timeline, we learned that some dinosaurs- like Stegosaurus and T. rex- would have never met each other in real life while others like Triceratops were around throughout most of the Mesozoic Era!
During the second activity, campers went on a bird & reptile walk. Equipped with field guides & binoculars, campers hiked around SPREE HQ making observations about the different birds they could see on the South Platte River. It was a bit too chilly and snowy for reptiles, despite the 60 degree weather over the weekend, so campers relied on field guides and their knowledge to compile a reptile adaptation list. After their hike, campers warmed up inside while making a Venn Diagram of similarities and differences that reptiles, birds, and dinosaurs all share. We then had a discussion where we determined that birds are LIVING DINOSAURS! It is wild to think, but it is true that not all the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, but instead evolved and adapted to earth’s current conditions as birds!
The third activity had campers rolling up their paleontologist sleeves to dig up bones and assemble dinosaurs! Dino bones were hidden in sand buckets, and campers had to use tools to carefully dig out the bones. They then had to assemble the bones that were uncovered. Surprise! There were two different species in each sand bucket that needed to be assembled. After learning about different adaptations that Colorado dinosaurs had, campers got creative with assembling their own dino skeleton using Q-tips!
Our final activity on Monday was supposed to be a critter crawl. The snow changed our plans! It turns out, that clams are geologically much older than dinosaurs- over 500 million years old! Clams are lucky, they have outlasted many extinction events; although they are no longer the dominant species on earth like they once were, they are still a common animal of the South Platte River. In fact, clams are beneficial- they filter and clean our water. Campers transformed into clams as they built a water filter using natural materials, and poured water into the filter to see if they could clean it like a clam. Some were more successful than others, but we all learned a lot about cleaning water!
On Tuesday it wasn’t snowing! But it was very cold, and the storm from Monday left a blanket of snow over SPREE HQ. We started off the day by mapping out some of the significant dinosaur discoveries of Denver and Colorado. It turns out, Denver was home to a lot of dinosaurs in it’s past. The first Triceratops was discovered off N. Federal Blvd in Denver, dinosaur eggs were uncovered when Coors Field was being built, and the first ever T. rex fossil was discovered just west of Denver in Golden, CO…. just to name a few. To build off what campers learned on Monday, they then went outside where more dino discoveries were waiting! Camper’s measured out the length of a “small” Supersaurus (100ft long!), used paleontologist tools to dig up a Triceratops horn (4 ft. long!), and traced their feet into an actual-size T. rex footprint (even with everyone’s feet, there was still empty space!). Campers concluded that although Denver was a great place for dinosaurs 100 million years ago, birds are probably the only dinosaurs that could survive today; there just simply isn’t enough food, water, shelter, or space for the Jurassic giants.
Our second activity Tuesday was a “snacktivity”- an edible activity! We started off on a rock hunt hike where we were looking for distinct layers of rocks- rocks are history! We then warmed up by building our own rock layers with pudding, cookies, graham crackers, and of course dinosaur gummies. Campers gobbled up snack faster than any paleontologist has ever uncovered a fossil!
After lunch, we learned more about the 4 different fossil types by making our own fossil wheel! Campers used clay and dinosaur trinkets to make their fossil wheel, and they even were able to take a clam shell to use as a “true-form fossil” where full animals or plants are preserved in ice, amber, or tar.
We wrapped up dino-mite camp with some games! Our final activity was three- dino tivia, charades, and one last puzzle. In dino trivia, campers worked in teams to answer questions correctly to avoid a collision with an asteroid. Campers were just too good and even after some really tricky questions, all dinos survived! Charades was a fun way to wrap up what we learned as campers silently acted out both realistic and silly dinosaur actions like “T. rex hunting”, “Stegosaurus sneezing”, and “Triceratops gardening”. To end the day, each camper was given a sheet of paper with squiggly lines. They colored their papers without knowing what they were coloring, and after all the sheets were vibrant with hue, campers were challenged to piece together a raptor dinosaur- the result was a giant, stunning raptor!
It seems as though our winter day camps always become “snow days”, but during Dino-mite campers made the best of the present to learn about the past! We had a great time, and cannot wait to see you down by the River!