Summer campers had a great time learning about many Colorado "Creepy Creatures" over the week of June 10-14! Whether you love creepy creatures or they give you the heebie-jeebies, these critters are a part of Colorado! Campers joined us for a week of learning about animals like spiders, bats, and snakes while we learned facts, dispelled myths, and found that they may be cool creatures after all!
Monday: Slimy Scaries
We kicked off the week with learning about some creatures that may be slimy and scary! But we discovered that not all of these creatures were slimy after all! Campers started by becoming Colorado snake experts. We learned about the many snakes that call Colorado home, analyzed shedded snake skin and talked about its importance to snakes, played some snake games, and even got to meet one of the River Ranger's pet ball python that she brought in to say hello (and she wasn't slimy at all!).
The next animals we learned about really were slimy! Leeches and worms are common in Colorado waterways and underground. We learned about some cool adaptations that these animal cousins have, discovered how they are both important in their ecosystems, and got to go into the River to try and catch some! (Leeches and aquatic worms can both be found in the South Platte!)
Tuesday: Freaky Fliers
Many flying creatures can scare people or gross them out- which is why we focused on some of these on Tuesday!
First we learned about bats! Bats are an animal that many people are afraid of, but many of the reasons people are afraid are not actually true about bats! We learned about 4 common bat species found in Colorado (out of a total of 19!), dispelled some bat myths, practiced some echolocation skills, and played a bat game to learn about what they need in their habitats in order to survive.
Next, we learned about bees. Many people are afraid of bees for good reason, but they are also pretty cool creatures who do great things for our Colorado ecosystems! Campers learned a bit of bee sting safety, learned how bees see (in ultraviolet!) and made our own sun paper craft, and we worked on our dancing skills when we learned how bees communicate with each other!
When we went down to the river for our daily exploration time, we were not expecting to find many flying creatures in the water- we just expected there to be some in and around it, of course! But we learned that many of the macroinvertebrate creatures that buzz around the park actually start their lives in the river and may even spend the majority of their lives there! The larval or nymph stages of many creatures like dragonflies, damselflies, blackflies, and mayflies all start as little macroinvertebrates in waterways like the South Platte! Kids loved catching some of these little critters in their nets.
We wrapped up our day of flying creature by learning about vultures. Colorado has two types of vultures: black vulture and turkey vulture. These animals gross out a lot of people because of their diet of dead animals, their cooling system of urinating on themselves, and their defense mechanism to vomit on predators, but they are pretty cool creatures too! Campers learned that vultures can eat so much carrion that they can increase their body weight by 5% in just one day! Campers got to make their own measurements and make some calculations to determine how many hamburgers (a little more delicious than carrion) they would need to eat in order to grow 5% in a day!
Wednesday: Creepy Crawly Spiders
Campers spent the day learning about spiders! We started by learning about one of the types of spiders we commonly see around Denver and the park- orb weavers! These cool spiders make the "classic" spider web with the spiral or target shape. We learned some cool facts, went on a spider hunt in the park, played spider tag, and made a spider web craft! During our critter crawl we learned about fishing spiders and kept an eye out for them near the river.
Next, we had an extra special guest speaker from the Butterfly Pavilion! The presentation was on invertebrate classification. In small groups, the campers looked at examples of different species and determined what was the same across all the samples they were looking at (how many legs, body parts, antennae). Then, the campers got to touch a cockroach and got to look at Rosie (a tarantula) & a black widow!
To wrap up the day, the campers learned about another type of arachnid that lives in Colorado- scorpions! We learned about the 3 types of scorpions in Colorado: Northern Scorpion, Northern Desert Scorpion, and Common Striped Bark Scorpion. Scorpions have some super cool adaptations: they glow under black light, they have stingers they use on prey (CO types not dangerous to people), they have been around for 400 million years, they can live up to a year without food, and the mothers carry their babies on her back until they are old enough to survive on their own. Campers got to try and be mother scorpions and carry some poker chips on their backs while they crawled through an obstacle course!
Thursday: Pesky Park Dwellers (Field Day!)
Campers love getting to venture out to a new space on Thursdays for field day! The group headed to nearby Vanderbilt Park to investigate some new creepy creatures that could be found in Denver or other nearby park and natural spaces. Through games and activities, campers learned about porcupines, skunks, and raccoons!
Friday: Big Baddies
Most of the creepy creatures that we talked about so far in the week have been pretty small, but there are some big animals in Colorado that people may be afraid of too! On Friday campers learned about mountain lions and coyotes. We acted out what to do in an encounter with each of these creatures, learned how to yip and howl like a coyote, and participated in a story about how and why mountain lions are a keystone species.
We wrapped up our creepy week with a graduation celebration!