Friday, August 14, 2015

Best of Camp Explorations

For our final week of Camp Explorations we have brought back some of our most beloved activities.  Monday was all about engineering.  Campers designed and built roller coasters, learned how to make earthquake-proof buildings, and worked in teams to make water rockets to be launched later in the week.

A Stegosaursus has found some prehistoric footprints!

Tuesday was all about dinosaurs.  Campers put their paleontology skills to the test with different activities throughout the day.  They dug for coprolites (ask your camper what that is!), interpreted dinosaur trackways, and searched through the Prehistoric Life gallery for dinosaurs and other animals throughout time.  Lastly, campers made their own Stegasaurus back plates, decorated to perfection.

Watch out for the Allosaurus!

On Wednesday we spent the afternoon in Nichols Arboretum.  We built our fairy friends some new homes and enjoyed the great outdoors with parachute activities.  We ended the day with some exciting finds:  deer scat and a deer bed!

A home fit for a fairy

Underneath the parachute!
Searching for signs of animals

Our theme for Thursday was astronomy.  Campers made star finders to use to help them navigate the night sky and launched the rockets they made on Monday.  We enjoyed our last planetarium show of the year, given to us by one of our very own counselors.

Patiently waiting for liftoff
Pumping up the rockets for launch time

Our last day was all about animals.  We played some favorite camp games, including "Oh deer!" and animal relay races.  Campers ended the week by making animal dioramas; they made some very impressive habitats!

This caiman has everything it needs to survive!

A rattlesnake making his way during the animal relay races

Thank you for an amazing summer!  We hope to see you around the Museum soon!

Junior Naturalists

Tree factory rules
Woo hoo!
On Monday, campers learned all about trees!  The diversity, composition, and age of tree species in an area can determine its health, age, and what kind of wildlife live there.  We made out own tree IDials to identify local trees from their most prominent characteristic: their leaves! We also took a closer look at leaves and their inner workings by making our leaf art rubbings.  This gave us a chance to make some cool pictures as well as closely study the veins and subtler features of leaves.  We also played a few games to learn about how trees function as organisms and within a community.

 "Every Tree for Itself" had campers scrambling for "resources" from their stationary position as trees within a forest.  Our Tree Factory assigned campers position within a single tree.  Each person had to do their own job as the leaves, heartwood, xylem, etc. to try and work as a team to create a functioning tree.

Every tree for themselves!

Tuesday was our trip to the arb!  We brought our ecology bingo sheets along to keep us searching for all the abiotic and biotic factors in the forest ecosystem.  We played lots of games and took in all the incredible flora and fauna the forest has to offer.


Peony garden

Stamping our tracks!

Wednesday was all about scat and tracks.  Our tricky tracks activity had campers putting together a story from tracks left by animal at a river.  Which tracks are older?  Who made these tracks?  What happened here?  these are all important questions to people who live and work in areas with a lot of wildlife.  We also made our own animal tracks artwork.

Finishing touches
 Using stamp pads and track stamps, we made our own scene.  Tracking animals isn't all about tracks, though.  Using our hands on scat kit, we learned to identify different Michigan animals using their scat.  We even took a animal scat quiz to test our new knowledge.

What happened here?!

Oh no, erosion!
Thursday, we focused on watersheds!  Before the rest of our activities, campers made an ecology cootie catcher to teach them about different abiotic and biotic factors in different ecosystems.  The Huron River Watershed council came for a visit to teach us a little bit about the watershed many of us live in.We learned about erosion, slope, temperature, macro-invertebrates (bugs) and how all of them relate to river health.

Testing temperature

Hunting for macroinvertebrates

Trying our wild edibles!
Friday was our last day of camp!  We learned all about Michigan wildlife.  We started off our day with some wildlife riddles.  Looking around our exhibits on the 3rd floor and solving the clues in the riddles, we were able to find all sorts of fun facts about local animals.  We had a special visitor for one of our activities, as well.

Hognose snake!

Our friend Nick showed up to teach us about animals he works with at a nature center as well as wild edibles we can find in the area.  We were able to see and learn about different amphibians and reptiles found right here in Washtenaw county!  We finished up our day with a craft.  We used strips of paper to weave one of North America's most beloved symbols, a great northern loon.

Trying out Bouncing Bet!

Barbecued meal worms.  YUM!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Best of Camp Explorations Questions

We are revisiting some camp favorites this week!  Here are some questions to ask your campers to keep them engaged even after they've left camp for the day.

On Monday, we are learning about Engineering.  Ask me about...

  • The rocket my team designed.
  • What types of buildings withstand earthquakes best.
  • The roller coaster I built.

On Tuesday, we are learning about Dinosaurs.  Ask me about...

  • What we learned from the footprints we found.
  • The fossil that I dug up.
  • My Stegosaurus back plates.

On Wednesday, we are going to the Arb.  We will be walking there and back, so please make sure your child has a water bottle, good walking shoes, a backpack, sunscreen, bug spray and wears their blue Camp Explorations shirt.

***We will be eating lunch in the Arb that day. If your child is not enrolled in all day and would like to join us you may drop your child off at the Museum between 11:45 and 12:00 with their lunch so that they may walk over with the other campers. Please let us know if your child will be joining us for lunch that day.***

Ask me about...

  • My trip to the Arb.
  • The parachute games we played.

On Thursday, we are learning about Astronomy.  Ask me about...

  • The planetarium show.
  • The rocket launch.
  • How to use the star finder I made.

On Friday, we are learning about Animals.  Ask me about...

  • The habitat I created.
  • The game "Oh deer!"
  • Our animal relay race.

Junior Naturalists Questions

This week is all about the ecology of the world around us.  Here are some questions to keep your Junior Naturalists engaged even after they head home.

On Monday, we're learning all about trees.  Ask me about...

  • "Every Tree for Itself!" and what trees need to survive.
  • My leaf rubbings!
  • My leaf IDial and how to identify different kinds of trees.

On Tuesday, we're learning all about ecology.  We will be walking to and from the Arb, so please make sure your child has a water bottle, good walking shoes, a backpack, sunscreen, and bug spray.  Ask me about...

  • My trip to the arb!
  • Ecology bingo!

On Wednesday, we're learning all about scat & tracks.  Ask me about...

  • My animal tracks art
  • Our animal signs scavenger hunt
  • Our scat hands-on kit!
***We will be eating lunch in the Arb on Wednesday. If your child is not enrolled in all day and would like to join us you may pick up your child at the Museum at 1:00. Please let us know if your child will be joining us for lunch that day.***

On Thursday, we're learning all about watersheds.  Ask me about...

  • Our Huron River Watershed Program
  • Abiotic/Biotic Ball!

On Friday, we're learning all about Michigan Wildlife.  Ask me about...

  • Michigan wildlife riddles
  • The loon I wove
  • Meeting animals with Nick!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Paleontology Rocks!

This week has been a blast!  Campers learned what it takes to be a paleontologist and learn about the past by studying fossils!  On Monday, we learned the basics about fossils.  Campers learned the process of fossilization, studied some of the Museum's collections, and went on a scavenger hunt of our Hall of Evolution.  They traveled through time and "froze" into fossils during Fossil Freeze Tag.  Finally, our campers made fossil art; Green group used rubbing plates to unearth fossils from varying times, while Orange, Green, and Yellow groups created fossil resist paintings.

Fossil rubbings
Learning about Life Through the Ages

On Tuesday, we learned about Geological Time.  Campers made flip books to visualize how the Earth has changed throughout the years and put together a Pangaea puzzle.  Their counselors took them on a tour through our Hall of Evolution to see how life has changed, from the Cambrian explosion to now!  We rounded out the day by making scrolls showing geological time and important dates in history, such as the K-T Impact.

Finished resist paintings
Wednesday was all about life before the dinosaurs.  Oftentimes we forget about all of the amazing life that came millions of years before the dinosaurs!  Campers looked at fossils from the Paleozoic Era and then made their own Devonian dioramas based off of fossils finds and reconstructions of ancient animals.  Lastly, campers made their own molds and casts of ammonites or trilobites to take home and be used multiple times!
An ammonite in its prehistoric habitat

T. rexes on the loose!
On Thursday, we learned about dinosaurs.  We discovered how big (and small) some of the dinosaurs were and went on special dinosaur tours throughout the Museum.  Campers learned about a crazy way some dinosaurs had to eat (ask your camper what a gastrolith is!) and made their own Edmontosaurus or Tyrannosaurus rex hats.

Testing out gastroliths

Cera the Triceratops stopped by!

Some fierce Smilodons

Our last day was about the Ice Age.  Campers learned about the impact of humans on Mastodon populations in North America and all about the La Brea tar pits of modern day California.  We studied some of our Museum's Ice Age animals, including the Sabertooth, which campers then made a mask of.

Learning about Mastodon extinction

Thanks for a great week!

Adventures in Chemistry

Glow fast, glow slow reaction

Colors on the move!
Monday was all about reactions!  We kicked off chemistry week with a few cool experiments to get us feeling like like real chemists.  We created an iodine clock reaction, titled as such because it's a reaction that takes a specific amount of time depending on the concentration.  You could set your watch by this reaction!  Our Glow Slow, Glow Fast activity explained how reactions occur faster in hot environment rather than cold because hot environments have more energy.

Our chemistry rocket activity explained the reaction between acids and bases.  By releasing carbon dioxide, our reaction was able to propel our rocket into the air!
Explaining our experiment
Colors on the move is a simple experiment you can do at home!  The fats in milk will be repelled by dish soap, so by adding dye to milk and placing a q-tip in the center of the drop, we were able to send the colors swirling around our milk.

Set up!

Tuesday campers learned more about chemical versus physical reactions.  Our cloudy globs experimented showed the reaction between ammonia and alum, changing our clear solutions to clouds in a bottle.  Our iodine and vitamin C experiment was a chemical reaction that showed how different chemical can change color in the presence of others.

Visiting from the Hands On Museum

Recording our data

The Hands On Museum made a visit and taught us about different reactions as well.  Ask your camper about their visit!

Floating "m"s

Wednesday, campers learned about the chemistry of candy!  Our mysterious floating "m"'s experiment got us thinking about different kinds of stamps and dyes in the food we eat.  Our candy chromatography made us question if black dye really is black! Our Mentos geyser was a physical reaction between diet coke and Mentos.


Blast Off

The reaction release the carbon dioxide dissolved in the soda to create an enormous geyser!  Our incredible growing gummy bears are one of the few candies that do not dissolve in water.  The gelatin based gummy bears actually expand as they absorb water!

Growing gummies

Making our bouncy balls!
Thursday's camp was all about polymers!  Polymers are long chains of molecules made up of individual units called monomers. Polymers can be sticky or stretchy because these molecule chains become tangled and difficult to separate.  We performed some tests on different household items to determine what is or isn't a polymer.  Many polymers can also absorb large quantities of liquid!  We tested different kinds of water absorbing polymers against one another to determine which worked best.  We also made magnetic slime!  By adding iron filing to a tangled network of polymers, we were able to move our slime using only a magnet.  Our favorite activity of morning was making our own bouncy balls.
Bouncy balls, too, are made of polymers which gives them their great bouncy abilities!

Elephant toothpaste
Hot ice!
Friday, we learned about exothermic and endothermic reaction.  An exothermic reaction is a one that generates heat as a product or byproduct.  An endothermic reaction absorbs heat.  Our first experiment was our exothermic reaction called elephant toothpaste.  This experiment used yeast to catalyze (make faster) the the release of oxygen from hydrogen peroxide.  A squirt of dish soap become a volcano of foam when encountering this mixture.  Oxygen is produced and the separation of the atoms produces heat.  Another exothermic reaction we undertook was our homemade hand warmer!  By combining the following, the chemical reaction between the iron, calcium chloride salt, air, and water (locked inside jelly crystal.) not only produces iron oxide, but also heat.  Hot ice is another reaction that produces heat.  By supersaturating water with sodium acetate, you can turn the solution back into a solid instantly by adding just a few crystals.  This gives the appearance of instant ice while the process of crystallization gives off heat.  Our endothermic reaction for the day combined citric acid and baking soda.  In the presence of water, citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) react to form sodium citrate, water, and carbon dioxide.  This process actually uses heat rather than produces heat.

Future chemists