Friday, August 9, 2013

Amazing Animals 2

A map of animals around the world
It was a wonderful last week of Camp Explorations at the Museum of Natural History!  We focused on all different kinds of animals, habitats, and their interactions.  On Monday we learned about biodiversity.  We made a map of where different animals live, especially those that are specific to one continent or region.  We also looked at the Michigan Wildlife on the third floor of the museum and noted the diversity among the species.  Finally, we played the adaptation game, and had to imagine what kinds of adaptations animals would need to live in different environments.

Drawing animal adaptations

Tuesday was all about oceans and the creatures that live under the surface of the water.  We played the ocean habitat game where we had to race to the bottom of the ocean by finding the animals that live in each zone. We also made pet jellyfish to take home with us!

Playing Ocean Habitats

We love our pet jellyfish!

Learning about amazing underwater creatures
In the planetarium for "From Stars to Starfish"!

On Wednesday we learned about the differences between insects and arachnids.  We got to act out how termites use pheromones to communicate in their colonies, and also got to move like different insects in a six-legged relay race!  We also got to create our own insect or arachnid!

Creating our own insects and arachnids

Six-Legged Relay Race: jumping like a flea...
...flying like a honey bee...
...and striding like a water strider!

Thursday was field trip day!  We walked to the Arb and got to explore one of Ann Arbor’s favorite nature parks.  We worked on forest animal scavenger hunts, and many of us saw all sorts of different species, even a deer!

On Friday we learned about all different kinds of animals.  We made life boxes, which have all four things needed for something to live.  We played animal charades and got to act out some of our favorite animals.  Finally, we competed in the Animal Olympics, where we got to move and compare ourselves to many native Michigan animals!
Acting like a cheetah for animal charades

Showing off our life boxes

More animal charades!

Balancing like the Great Blue Heron for Animal Olympics!

We are sad that the summer has come to an end so quickly, but happy we got to make so many new friends!  We hope to see old and new faces next year for Camp Explorations, and we hope everyone enjoys the last few weeks of summer!

Ecology in Your Backyard 2

It is hard to believe that this blog post marks the last week of camp for the 2013 summer! Fortunately,  our last week was a great one, and we are ending the summer on a high note! We started this week off with a day about biodiversity. We did a biomagnification demonstration to help us understand how energy travels through the food chain. In our demo, we had 4 levels of the food chain. The producer, cotton, started with 200 energy units from the sun, represented with red bingo chips. However, pesticides were sprayed on the cotton plants and so these 200 units of energy were polluted with 2 units of pesticides. At the next level, tertiary consumers, a weevil bug ate the cotton. As we learned, about 90 percent of energy is lost between food levels, so the weevil got only 20 units of energy from the cotton, but gained both units of pesticide. At the next level, secondary consumers, a shrew ate the weevil, and gained 2 units of energy and 2 units of pesticide, for a pesticide to energy  ratio of 1. Then, a hawk (primary consumer) ate the shrew, gaining only .2 units of energy but still getting 2 units of pesticide, for a ratio of 10 pesticides to energy. We saw with this demo how toxins can be dangerous when traveling through the food chain, and how pesticide pollution is "biomagnified" as energy is lost.
Making unwanted invader posters

Talking about the food chain during the biomagnification demo

Next, we played a bioaccumulation game to demonstrate this same concept of accumulating toxins through the food chain. This time, the campers represented zooplankton, minnows and fish-eating birds and we had tokens to represent the phytoplankton eaten by zooplankton and then passed on through the food chain. Some of the tokenz of phytoplankton had an "x" on them to represent a toxin. We played a tag-like game, slowly introducing each food chain level, and then analyzing the ratio of food energy to toxins at the end, discussing the same concepts we did with the demo. The next two activities focused on invasive species. We used an exhibit on the 3rd floor of the museum to talk about what invasive species are, where they come from, and why they are dangerous. We learned that they can disrupt the natural food chain and ecosystem and deprive native plants an animals of food, shelter and other necessities. Then we created "Unwanted Invader" posters for an invasive species of our choice.
The bioaccumulation game

The tokens we used to represent food (phytoplankton) and toxins

On Tuesday, we took a field trip to the Arboretum to do a Nature A to Z Scavenger hunt. We had to find something in nature for each letter of the alphabet. We saw all sorts of natural phenomenon, from birds to elm trees to crickets to even a woodchuck! We saw a lot of dragonflies, too, and ended up eating snack right next to a grassy area that was swarming with them! We had to come back to the Museum a bit early when it started to sprinkle, and spent the rest of the time playing games and answering questions from the Clever Catch balls.

Taking a break for snack

On Wednesday, we did three activities about trees. We looked at tree cookies, which are horizontal slices of a tree that allow us to see tree rings, parts of a tree and blemishes that help to explain stressed put on the tree during growth. We talked about the function of each part of a tree, and how they all work together to make a tree grow and survive. We also counted the rings to see how old the tree was. Then we used our new knowledge to play a game called  "Tree Factory,", in which the campers enacted a tree's different parts and their purposes. For exam, the heartwood,  which gives the tree its central support,  stood in the center of the group and chanted, "I support, I support!" The xylem, which transports water up and down the tree from the roots, formed a circle around the heartwood and chanted "Gurgle, slurp. Gurgle, slurp. I transport water!" as they moved their arms up and down. This activity really helped us to internalize the functions that happen in a tree, and why each part is so important to the survival of the tree.
Our last activity for the day was leaf identification. Using a leaf guide, we analyzed many different aspects of leaves to decipher what kind of tree it came from. We looked at whether or not a leaf was needle-like, how many leaves were on a branch, if they were opposite each other or alternate, what shape the leaf was, if it had serrated edges, and many other qualities. Now when we take a nature hike, we can identify trees on our own!
Learning about tree cookies!

Leaf identification

Playing the tree factory game! This picture shows the heartwood and the xylem.

Thursday was all about environmental stewardship. We got to take a tour of the School of Natural Resources, which is the first green building on campus. Our tour guides told us about all sorts of cool features. We learned about their compost toilets, which use worms and bacteria to compost waste. We played matching games to understand how everyday materials can be recycled and turned into building materials. For example, the carpet in the building is made of plastic that was pulled into thread. They used bamboo paneling instead of wood because it grows faster and is more sustainable. We also learned about how they made the building more open so that it could be lit by sunlight to save energy! It gave us all sorts of ideas about how we can be creative to save energy and help promote a sustainable environment!
Then we came back to the Museum of Natural History and played Litter Tag , where campers representing litter chased campers representing animals like birds and fish. Then campers representing humans had to come in and "rescue" the tagged fish and birds. Although litter doesn't literally tag animals, this helped us to understand how animals are affected by litter in the environment. We talked about some of the most common types of litter that disrupt the natural ecosystem, such as cigarette butts, balloons, and plastic bags. Hopefully after today, we will all be more mindful about where our trash ends up and how much this can help the environment!
We also got to spend some time on Thursday making stepping stones with the extra time we had!

Making stepping stones!

Learning about the green SNRE building

Outside the composting toilet

Playing a matching game to determine the parent material of these materials seen in the building

Playing litter tag!

On Friday, we talked a lot about gardens. We talked about what makes a successful garden, discussing things such as water source and types of plants, and got to design our own gardens using this information. We talked about native vs. non-native plants, focusing on the root length of native plants. We looked at some examples of native plants, which have roots up to 15 feet long, and compared them to non-native plants, such as turf grass which has a root length of only a couple inches. We drew these roots on the sidewalk to help us visualize the different. Then we went out to the Butterfly Garden and talked more about native plants. The Butterfly Garden at the Museum features plants that are all native to Michigan, and doesn't use any pesticides. This is really helpful in promoting the success of native insects and other animals, as they depend on native plants for survival. Then our garden helper, Mary, helped us dig up some native plants that we got to plant and even take home!! Each camper got one pot of Milkweed and another of either Black-Eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower or Columbine. This was a very nice souvenir from a great week at camp (so make sure you help your camper put it in a sunny spot and water it frequently!)
Mary telling us about native plants

Getting a plant to take home!

The finished product!

Designing our own gardens

Some garden inspiration

Drawing native and non-native plant roots on the sidewalk

As the last week of camp winds down, we are able to look back on 8 awesome weeks of science activities and curious and adventurous campers! We hope that we will see many of you back for more next year! We make it our goal to change the activities every year so that repeat campers can enjoy camp for many summers! We hope you all have a great rest of your summer and start to the new school year, and we will see you in 2014!