Friday, August 2, 2013

Ecology In Your Backyard 1

We had a really fun week learning about habitats, ecosystems, environmentally friendly behavior, and other ecological lessons!! We started out the week with some basics about ecology. We did an activity called "The Life Box," where we talked about the 4 elements that are vital to ecosystems: air, water, sunlight and soil. Then we made posters of 6 different ecosystems, and played a game to match animals to their proper habitat, represented by the ecosystem posters. We used cards with the name of an animal and some of their characteristics, and had to think about which of these characteristics gave us clues to their natural habitat. For example, the Beaver is a mammal that feeds on the inner layer of tree bark but blocks streams and rivers with its dam, so we concluded that it must live somewhere with water AND trees (aquatic/riparian zone)!
Making ecosystem posters!

Talking about living and non-living aspects of an ecosystem

Deciding which ecosystem the animals live in

On Tuesday, we talked about watersheds and water pollution. We made 3-D models of watersheds by putting a tarp over crumpled newspaper, and then sprayed water on it to see how the water flowed down into the valleys between the newspaper piles. We talked about and labeled the different parts of the watershed as we watched what happened to the water that "rained down" on the watershed. Then we turned the discussion to pollution. We talked about how land is developed by humans, and we labeled different developments along the watershed, such as gas stations, factories and shopping malls. Then we examined how pollutants from these developments infiltrate the watershed by sprinkling colored sugar and chocolate syrup on our model, spraying water again and watching the different colors bleed into the valleys and pollute the entire water system. As we watched the watershed become polluted, we talked about point vs. non-point pollution. It was a great visual and the campers seemed very enthusiastic!

Spraying water on the water shed to see how it flows

Yuck! Look as that pollution!

Then we took our discussion about pollution to another activity to help us understand how pollution is a "sum of the parts." Campers each got an index card that represented a piece of river-front property that they got to develop. We talked about what kind of pollutants and how much pollution each piece of development would create, and each camper collected some materials to represent that pollution. Then, starting upriver, each camper passed on their pollution to the camper with the next door development. By the time all of the pollution had been passed on, the campers with development the farthest downriver had a huge load of pollution! This gave us a great visual of how pollution can spread and be carried from the source, affecting everything in it's path. Our last activity for the day continued with the theme of pollution, but this time testing the water quality of streams by analyzing the macroinvertebrates that live there. We set up 3 sample streams, with the macroinvertebrates represented by rubber bands, beads and paper clips. The campers collected the specimens and then counted how many of each kind were in the streams. We talked about how some macroinvertebrates are tolerant to pollution, and others aren't. Macroinvertebrates are often monitored to determine the quality of stream water, and so we analyzed the specimens we found to determine which streams were cleaner than others.
Developing the river front property

Collecting the pollution, represented by toilet paper tubes, water bottles, etc.

Collecting macroinvertebrates from the stream samples

Talking about the parts of a flower
On Wednesday, we had to be a little flexible. Due to a rainy forecast, we had to postpone our trip to the Arboretum. Instead, we did activities that focused on flowers. We talked about the parts of a flower and made little pamphlets to help us understand what each part's purpose is. Then we prepared the petals for making Stained Glass Flowers. We made these by bending colorful wires into tear-drop shapes, and filling the inside with window-cling paint that dries translucent, just like stained glass windows. Then we let our petals dry overnight. We also spent some time outside in the Butterfly Garden. We made Local Field Guides, with pictures and descriptions of some of the flowers in the garden, and got to look at some real plant field guides for inspiration.

Making field guides in the Butterfly Garden

Making the petals for our stained glass flowers

 The weather was more cooperative on Thursday, so we finally got to take our trip to the Arb. We spent our time doing a bird behavior scavenger hunt, which involved searching for typical bird behaviors, such as bathing, soaring, preening or perched on a branch, and then drawing a picture to help describe what we saw. The birds were hiding from us all morning, but many campers found all 15 behaviors on the list! When we came back, we spent some time putting together our stained glass flowers.

Stained Glass Flowers!

On Friday, we started the day by talking about animal diversity. We choose cards from three piles: what it wears, how it moves, and where it lives, and had to think of an animal that fit the description. For example, if we got an animal that had to live in the water, have scales or slimy skin, and hops, a possible answer would be a frog! We talked about adaptations, and how different animals have different qualities that are better suited for their habitat or ecosystem. Then we moved on to an activity about shrinking habitats. We played a game where the campers acted as animals and had a certain amount of physical space for living, food and water. All of the sudden, developers came in and decided to build a huge mansion in their habitat, and had to displace the animals. However, although the animals could move easily, their resources couldn't, and so many were left without vegetation or water. This helped us to understand the impact of human development on the environment, and how we must consider the animals that live in a habitat before we put buildings there. To end the day, we made stepping stones to help beautify the Butterfly Garden! The campers came up with some very creative and colorful designs, and we can't wait to see what they look like among the butterflies and the flowers!
Playing the shrinking habitat game

Making stepping stones

Well we had a very fun and outdoorsy week here at Camp Explorations. As we gear up for our last week of camp for the summer, it is hard to believe how fast time has flown by! We can't wait to end this summer with another week of ecology activities!!!

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