Friday, August 1, 2014

Ecology in Your Backyard 1

We kicked off our Ecology in Your Backyard Week 1 by learning about ecosystems. An ecosystem a term in biology that describes a community of interacting life forms (organisms) and their physical environment. We made our own ecosystem posters in small groups, incorporating all he different interacting parts. Our large murals ranged from desert to aquatic ecosystems! We also were able to create our own origami passenger pigeons, a tribute to a now extinct species.

Posing with an underwater ecosystem

A camper's complete passenger pigeon

Hanging our pigeons!

On Tuesday, we took a field trip to Nichols Arboretum to talk about ecosystems.  Specifically we were on the hunt for ecotones.  Ecotones are are a special environments created by the overlap of two or more surrounding habitats and there were plenty to find, describe, and draw in our journals.  We also played a "Oh Deer", a game that teaches students about limited resources in an environment and he sustainability of large communities of organisms.  Campers had a blast pretending to be deer and trying to tag and capture their "resources".  Ask your child about what resources and organism needs to survive in its environment.

Making note of our discoveries

Discussing the components of the river's ecosystem

Developing Dragonfly Pond
On Wednesday, campers students learned about wetlands and conservation!  They worked together to plan a community around "Dragonfly Pond".  They created a large collage by playing different roles and having different interests in human land-use development (conservationists, farmers, business owners, etc).  Campers learned about the importance of conserving limited resources and planning our communities carefully to fulfill everyone's needs without destroying our environment.  We also were visited by some very cool wetland animals!  A presentation was given by Mr. Nick about "The Wonder of Wetlands" and campers learned about why protecting our marshes is so important to humans and our four legged, six legged, and no legged friends!  Mr. Nick works with Our Global Kids and you can learn more at!
Salamanders were among our wetland friends

Mr. Nick showing us "The Plant of Life"
Our friend, Flower!

Holding the garter snake

On Thursday, we focused on botany and campers were able to create their own local field guide by investigating the museum's butterfly garden.  We talked about native plants and the kids got to take a plant home to plant in their own garden.  Campers also took a look at garden design.   In doing so, we discovered the different types of plants humans like to cultivate for food and aesthetics. We were able to design our own gardens in our journals, as well. Our counselors also taught everyone about the difference between native and invasive plants and other organisms.  By touring our third floor exhibits and using some hands on models and skins, we got an up close look at a few invasive species we may have not realized were problematic.  Invasive species can harm the natural order of an ecosystem; that's why it's so important to preserve native plant and animal species and communities.

Picking plants and insects for our field guides
Sketching and describing our choices
Museum Gardener,  Mary teaching us about native plants

Friday was our last day of Ecology in Your Backyard 1 and we spent it learning about biomagnification and food chains!  We made our visual example of a food chain by creating sets of nesting dolls with producers, and primary, secondary, and tertiary consumers.  Biomagnification is an occurrence where a substance (usually a harmful chemical) becomes more concentrated within each organism at each level on the food chain.  We used bingo chips to demonstrate how energy from food is lost at each level of the food chain, also known as a trophic level, but the initial concentration of a harmful substance is not.  Campers also dissected "fish guts" to learn about how different trophic levels in aquatic ecosystems are affected by biomagnification and which fish are safe and unsafe for human consumption.

Building our food chain set!

Studying some faux fish guts!

Playing anoher round of "Oh Deer!"

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