What a way to kick off the week! On Monday, SPREE ran Macroinvertebrate Mayhem holiday camp. What is a macroinvertebrate? If you break down the word “macro” means it can be seen with the naked eye, no need for microscopes. The second half of the word “invertebrate” means an animal that does not have a backbone or spine. So if we put the two together, a macroinvertebrate is an animal without a backbone that can be seen without any magnification. Many macroinvertebrates live in our South Platte River including crawdads, dragonfly larvae, leeches, clams and more! The day started off with a great surprise, Chompers came to visit and give campers the day's mission!
We started our day learning about different Macroinvertebrates that live in our River, and the important ecosystem role they fill. We played a game inspired by Pokemon, where campers were given several cards, each with a macro animal on it. Each card shared the importance of the animal to the River, along with ecosystem points associated with their importance. For the game, campers needed to solve an ecosystem crisis using the ecosystem points listed for each macro. We learned that although these animals are small, they are mighty! Some macroinvertebrates eat mosquitoes and other pests, are food sources for aquatic birds and fish, or filter and clean River water. After solving some eco-issues, campers were inspired and created their own macroinvertebrates with unique ecosystem roles and out of this world adaptations!
Our Second activity was critter crawl- an activity that is a favorite among campers and teachers! During critter crawl, we get into the River and use nets to catch the macroinvertebrates that call water their home! Even though it was cold, we caught a lot of macros! This was awesome, because as campers found out… we needed this data for a SNACKTIVITY later in the day!
After lunch, we teamed up to do our last two activities as one large group. Our third activity was focused on macros again, no surprise. This activity, we dove deeper into the important relationship between our macroinvertebrates and our River. We began by doing some water tests on the River to determine if the River provides a habitat where macros can live and thrive. We measured the South Platte’s pH, DO, temperature and turbidity levels. After analysis we learned the River is a consistent and healthy environment to sustain macro life. After our experiments, campers became the macros to play Macroinvertebrate Mayhem, a fun game where campers learn how macroinvertebrate populations are impacted and affected by different pollutants. It turns out, some species of macros are more sensitive to pollution so it is a sign of a healthy ecosystem to find a mix of many different species in the River!
We wrapped up the day with one final group activity. During this activity, we summarized the data of macros that were collected during critter crawl. We sorted the macroinvertebrates we collected based on their pollution tolerance, then assigned each tolerance level a Skittles color. We then assigned macros different skittle colors and filled out a Skittles graph summarizing what we caught. Of course we ended the activity by eating the “macros”.... Aka: Skittles! What a tasty way to wrap up a camp day!
We had such a great time investigating the macroinvertebrates of the South Platte River. It is amazing that “the more you look, the more you see”, and the more you dig into a topic, the more you learn. We look forward to our next holiday camp, but until then, enjoy our River and Parks!