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!
Tuesday: Underground Engineers
There are many cool animals that live underground that are great excavators, diggers, architects, and engineers! First, we talked about a type of tiny engineer that is found nearly all over the world- ants! They can build huge and complex structures underground, just by instinct and communicating by pheremones! We painted our own underground ant structures as a craft after learning more about ant life cycles and the structures they build.
Next, we learned about prairie dogs and the underground towns that they construct! Like ants, they create many rooms, each with a different purpose. We drew our own prairie dog towns, learned about their adaptations, and played a survival game!
We wrapped up our day talking about how and why human engineers work and explained the steps that engineers take to solving a problem: Identify the Problem (What do we need to do? What is our goal?), Brainstorm (the most important step!), Design (blueprint), Build (may be a model version first), Test and Evaluate (Then may need to go back to step 4, until it is perfect and safe and ready-to-go!), and Share the Solution! Then, campers started brainstorming ideas for inventions of their own!
Wednesday: Engineers of the Air
Birds are well known for their engineering skills and creativity when building nests. There are many more types of nests that birds build that you may not think of at first! We first discussed some different types of nests that some Colorado birds build: like a flicker making a cavity nest, a grebe making a floating nest, and a swallow making a mud nest on a bridge! Next, we played an eagle game- did you know bald eagles hold the record for the world's biggest bird nest? Then, we learned about the tiniest bird nest builders, hummingbirds, and made some tiny craft versions ourselves!
Another common type of flying nest builder is bees. Campers learned about many different types of bees, wasps, and yellowjackets that call Colorado home- and about the unique types of nests that each one builds. Then, we focused on an amazing non-native bee engineer, the honey bee! They build amazing hexagon honeycombs and of course make honey! We crafted a honeycomb of our own with some cute bees to go with it!
Thursday: Field Day
Our typical Thursday is when we get to venture over to Vanderbilt park and explore a new area! Today was no exception as campers were on the lookout for human, plant, and animal engineers in the park. We hunted for spider webs, looked for bird nests, and found some cool things in nature through a scavenger hunt. Then, we painted some of the engineers and their structures we saw in watercolors!
We wrapped up the day with a critter crawl in the South Platte River and caught one of the biggest crawdads SPREE has ever seen!
SPREE's favorite type of engineer, actually an ecosystem engineer, is a beaver! Beavers are fantastic builders that can have huge impacts on their environments by changing water flows and creating new habitats for other animals! First, campers focused on learning about beaver adaptations- they have unique bodies suited for their water and land lifestyle and building skills! We had campers dress up as a beaver- complete with flippers, a tail, goggles, and more to discover how they have different bodies than people. Next, we compared and contrasted them to a rodent cousin that they are often easily confused with- muskrats! By the end of the activity, campers were experts in both!
After learning about physical adaptations, campers then focused more on beaver beahvioral adaptations- like their building skills! We made our own mini beaver lodges, played a dam building game, and built mini dams along the river.
Finally, like every Friday, we wrapped up our week with a camper graduation ceremony where we celebrated campers being eco engineering experts!