Friday, August 8, 2014

Ecology in Your Backyard 2

Drawing our own "people" cookies
We began our second week of Ecology in Your Backyard by learning all about the importance of trees.  In addition to providing us with the oxygen we breath, trees are the source of many everyday objects we may not realize including rubber bands, rayon fabric, and dyes.  We looked at dozens of objects and tried to discern their origin.  After some deliberation and debate it turns out each object we had set out had a
come from a tree!  Now, that's something worth protecting.  Campers also got an up close look at a tree's cross section, also called a "tree cookie".  They drew pictures of their own cross sections, labeling important life events on each ring!  We were able to play "Every Tree for Itself", a game that illustrated the importance of all the different resources trees need to survive, as well.  We wrapped up our first day by checking out all the different micro-habitats in a single tree.  We observed the animals and other organism living from the tops of the highest branches to the roots and surrounding ground.  It was a fun way to learn that people aren't the only things that depend on trees!

Investigating trees as habitats

Our recycling relay
On Tuesday, we learned about renewable and non-renewable resources.  Campers started their day with a recycling relay!  Teams raced against one another to determine if each item in heir pile was recyclable, reusable, or just trash.  The more items you could justify as being reusable, the more points for your team (and Earth)!  Then, we took a peak at packaging by looking at different kinds ways goods are contained.  We brainstormed ideas on how not to waste resources with our packaging including how to make it more efficient and eco-friendly.  We even designed some packaging of our own.  Did you know that there are many  different resources used to create our goods and power.  Campers took a tour around the museum to try and investigate and determine which resources were renewable or not and how we can incorporate more renewable resources into our every day lives!

Experimenting with chemical run off
Learning watershed terminology
On Wednesday, campers focused their attention on the Great Lakes!  Did you know that between the five Great Lakes and Michigan's more than 11,000 inland lakes, we have more freshwater coastline than any other state! We worked together to make a large mural of all the different parts of a Great Lakes watershed, including the animals, plants, people, businesses, and cities that depend on them.  Campers also played a game that exhibited the harm that invaders to our local aquatic ecosystem can do called "Don't Stop for Hitchhikers!".  We even got to make a model of a real watershed using dyed water and colored sugars to represent various chemical and organic compounds prone to run off.  We used a large plastic sheet to create hills and valleys, then added water to demonstrate how water flows down into streams and tributaries that flow together to form one large lake.  Campers learned water shed terminology as well as the dangers of chemical run off.

Designing each piece of the watershed

On Thursday, Camp Explorations took a walk in the woods!  Campers took a field trip to Nichol's Arboretum where we played "The Carbon Dioxide Game".  A new take on tag, our "carbon dioxide molecules" tried to catch our "sunbeams" and keep them trapped in Earth's atmosphere.  We drew cards to determine what aspects of human behavior help or hurt our cause (driving puts CO2 into the air, planting trees pulls CO2 out of the atmosphere, etc).  We had a blast running around the meadow and building fairy houses as well!
Exploring the Arb

Carbon Dioxide game!
Building our eco-friendly fairy house

On Friday, we wrapped up our ecology session by focusing on environmental stewardship. Environmental stewardship is defined as the "responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices". We played a game called "Virtual Water" to illustrate why water is so important to human interests and conserving resources is so vital. Campers were all assigned roles within a community and had to tug at a string connected to a central water. All the other campers could feel the pull of each other, a great way to show how the overuse or conservation of water affects everyone. We also took time to design our own Great Lakes community. We designed businesses, homes, and other aspects of a community and then carefully planned their positions on our mural in order to best utilize the available space and resources while still leaving enough area for our wetland friends and their habitats. Finally, we learned about oil spills! Oil spills are bad for our environment and often occur over large areas of water. Campers tried to clean up a mini oil spill, testing various absorbent materials to try to soak up and contain the oil. After experimenting with different substances they worked together to create the most efficient procedure for saving the ecosystem in the event of a spill.
Adding our community buildings

Virtual water

Aftermath of cleaning up the oil spill

Writing out our procedure

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