Friday, July 31, 2015

Natural Science Extravaganza

Playing the Food Chain Game
We've had a blast this week learning about a variety of topics!  On Monday we studied paleontology.  Campers learned about food chains and how prehistoric animals' populations would have changed due to variations in their foods.  We also learned about the importance of feathers and how they helped some dinosaurs.  Lastly, we put our paleontology skills to the test!  Green and Orange groups put together 3D dinosaur puzzles, while Red and Yellow groups decorated their own wooden dinosaurs.

Adding all of the details.
Where are the legs?!

Putting together the body systems.
Tuesday's topic was the human body.  Campers learned about their brains and how different parts of their brains control different aspects of their life by making their own brain hats.  Ask what happens if you damage your Broca's Area or your Wernicke's Area.  Green and Orange groups put together some of the body's systems and learned how they worked together, while Red and Yellow groups learned about the skeletal system and made their own movable skeletons.  Lastly, our campers learned how to take their pulses and how it changes with varying levels of activity.

We've got some brainy campers!

On Wednesday, we focused on Space.  Campers learned that there is more to our solar system than the sun and planets.  Ask your camper what else is in our solar system!  They showed their creative sides by decorating space-themed sun catchers to bring home!  We ended our day with a planetarium show, a camp favorite.

Finished products!

Sorting through the solar system
We went for a hike to the Arb on Thursday to learn about population dynamics.  Campers played "Oh Deer!" to see how the amount of resources affects the population of a herd of deer.  Ask your camper what the three resources were that they needed to find.  Lastly, we picked up a few items from nature to make sun prints on Friday.
Don't get caught by a wolf!
A successful deer with her resource!

Learning about shared water--and cooling off, too!
On Friday, we learned about water.  Campers learned about how communities share water and how that affects the quality of this shared resource.  Green and Orange groups tested out different properties of water, while Green and Yellow groups learned about the different states water can be in.  We learned about density by creating "lava lamps" with oil and water.  These can continue to be used at home, all you need is a bit of Alka-Seltzer!  Just drop a tablet in, and make sure to keep the cap off until the reaction is completely over!

Lava lamps!
Thank you for a great week!  We hope your campers enjoyed it as much as we did!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Natural Science Extravaganza Questions

We're having a Natural Science Extravaganza this week in the afternoon!  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 paleontology.  Ask me about...

  • My wooden dinosaur.
  • The food chain game.

On Tuesday, we are learning about the human body.  Ask me about...

  • The pulse activity.
  • The parts of the brain.

On Wednesday, we are learning about space.  Ask me about...

  • The planetarium show.
  • My sun catcher.

On Thursday, we will be going to the Arb.  Make sure to pack sun screen, bug spray, a water bottle, and have your camper wear their blue camp shirt and good walking shoes.  Ask me about...

  • My trip to the Arb.
  • The resources animals need to live.

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

  • Water density.
  • How water has to be shared in communities.

CSI: Ann Arbor Questions

This week, Camp Explorations is learning all about crime scene investigation (CSI)!  Here are some questions to keep your camper engaged even after they head home.

On Monday, we're learning about observation and evidence.  Ask me about...

  • Our witness experiment and the reliability of eye witness testimony
  • The mock crime scene we documented!
  • Why it's so important to keep a crime scene undisturbed and intact
On Tuesday, we're learning about fingerprinting and impression evidence.  Ask me about...
  • Our tennis shoe detectives activity and what we can learn from footprints
  • The set of my fingerprints I get to take home!
  • How CSI's lift latent prints they find at crime scenes.
On Wednesday we're learning about police officers.  Ask me about...
  • My visit to the police station!
If I stayed behind.  Ask me about...
  • The police officer who visited our museum.
  • The police officer hat and badge I made.
  • The police training obstacle course I completed
On Thursday, we're learning about fiber, hair, and DNA evidence.  Ask me about...
  • The hair strand model I made.
  • Using DNA to solve our "Who Robbed the Bank" activity
  • Why DNA is such an accurate and important piece of evidence
On Friday, we investigate a crime at the museum.  Ask me about...
  • What crime took place.
  • What evidence we collected.
  • Who did it!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Wild Adaptations

We've had a wild week here at Camp Explorations!  This week campers learned about animals and the adaptations that help them survive.  We also partnered up with WhaleTimes, Inc. for their Creep Into the Deep program, which connected us with deep sea researchers studying bioluminescence and vision in the deep sea.  You can learn more about Creep Into the Deep, read some of their "seamails," and see pictures from the deep at the WhaleTimes, Inc. website,

We started off the week by learning the basics about adaptations.  We learned what they are and how they help animals and then explored some special adaptations of specific animals.  Green and Orange groups read the book What If You Had Animal Teeth!? and drew themselves with crazy teeth!  Ask your camper how those teeth would help them.  We also fashioned new species of fishes using traits from others.  Make sure to look at your camper's!

Flap, flap, flap!

Can you see the animals?

Hagfish slime!
On Tuesday we learned about aquatic creatures.  Campers played with Hagfish slime and learned how such an odd adaptation can be useful.  We learned about the importance of currents and about the many adaptations beavers have.  Ask your camper what they would need to wear to have the same adaptations.  Lastly, we made our own deep sea Anglerfish hats.

Watching ostracods.

Wednesday was all about predators and prey.  We dissected owl pellets to see what animals they eat and how they get rid of the parts they can't digest.  Campers learned about deep sea vision by making underwater goggles.  We learned how camouflage helps animals hide from their predators and how bioluminescence can help both predators and prey.  Watch how ostracods use their adaptation to stay alive!

A little burst of light!

What did this owl eat...?
A human-sized owl!
On Thursday we learned about nocturnal animals.  The Leslie Science and Nature Center sent over some of their feathered friends to teach how owls' adaptations help them hunt in the nighttime.  Campers learned how echolocation helps bats catch their prey, even without great vision.  Lastly, campers created their own nocturnal creatures with special features for living in the dark.

Scaring away the counselors with his talons
A nocturnal alligator slug

Deep sea gardens
Friday was all about extreme animals.  We participated in animal Olympics and created super sense animals, using senses from other extremes!  Green and Orange groups created deep sea gardens, full of animals from the depths of the ocean.  Meanwhile, Yellow and Red groups Skyped with Ruth from WhaleTimes to learn more about the expedition!

Skyping with Ruth from WhaleTimes!
Thanks for another successful week!  We've had a great time and we hope you have as well!

The Creep into the Deep program is offered by WhaleTimes where the campers will join marine biologists virtually as they explore the deep sea in the Gulf of Mexico. The Research is funded by NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, award #NA14OAR0110264

I Dig Archaeology

Looking at quizzes

Monday, our campers learned about the scientists who study ancient people.  That's right, it was all about archaeologists!  With our "Draw a Real Scientist" activity, we got a gauge of everyone's initial understanding of what it is archaeologists and other scientists do, where they work, and what kind of tools they use.  We tried a couple of quizzes that showed us pictures of tools and asked us to infer their purpose, with and without context.

Drawing some tools

Discussing shipwreck artifacts
On Tuesday, our Red and Orange groups took a trip to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology to talk to some real archaeologists and see artifacts from all over the world.  Blue and Yellow group stayed at our museum to learn all about the exciting field of underwater archaeology.  Many archaeological sites and artifacts are hidden beneath oceans and lakes due to extreme flooding, geographical changes, and ship wrecks!  Since divers investigating a site or wreck cannot speak to each other underwater, we learned the official signals divers use to communicate with each other.  Then, we applied this to a game of archaeological site battleship.  Could you help direct a fellow archaeologist to the ship wreck site using diving signals?  Campers also worked together to build their own boats, hopefully able to withstand our makeshift ocean so they didn't end up an archaeological site themselves.

A completed ship (with instructions!)

An archaeology quiz!
On Wednesday, campers learned about archaeology here in Michigan.  Campers cycled through different stations and periods of Michigan archaeological sites and history.  Our Burnham house station was an example of archaeological digs that took place right here in Ann Arbor.  Our Hunting Mastodons station and stone tools stations focused more on earlier Native American settlements and tools.  We also got a chance to weave or own baskets or pouches similar to those used by people native to Michigan.  

Making our atlatl
Thursday, Blue and Yellow groups took a trip to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology to talk to some real archaeologists and see artifacts from all over the world.  Red and Orange group stayed behind to learn about how archaeology is really done.  When archaeologists describe artifacts, they don't like to use words that could be misinterpreted.  Objects are not pretty, ugly, or anything other judgement words.  Scientists only use indisputable facts about an object in their description.  Campers also got to look at different objects and try and infer the stories behind them.

Working together

Sifting for artifacts
Collecting our finds
Friday, campers learned about the archaeology process.  We measured and tied off our own archaeology site using the traditional grid system.  We also sifted through soil found at an archaic campsite to make sure no small artifacts were missed.  Once the artifacts were all gathered they were brought inside to categorize, measure, and describe.  We also All of groups met to watch a presentation of "Stories my Ancestors Told" about Native American constellation stories unique to Michigan.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Wild Adaptations Questions

Our afternoon theme this week is wild adaptations!  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 what adaptations are.  Ask me about...

  • How adaptations help animals
  • The adaptation stations we explored
  • The fish I created
On Tuesday, we are learning about aquatic creatures.  Ask me about...
  • Hagfish slime
  • My deep sea anglerfish hat
  • How I dressed like a beaver
On Wednesday, we are learning about predators and prey.  Ask me about...
  • The glowing ostracods
  • What I found in my owl pellet dissection
  • My deep sea goggles
On Thursday, we are learning about nocturnal animals.  Ask me about...
  • The animals we saw from the Leslie Science and Nature Center
  • Some common features of nocturnal animals
  • How bats use echolocation
On Friday, we are learning about extreme animals.  Ask me about...
  • My super sense animal
  • The animal Olympics

I Dig Archaeology Questions

This week's camp digs into archaeology.  Here is a list of question that can keep your camper engaged even after they head home.

On Monday, we're learning about archaeologists. Ask me about...

  • What an archaeologist does, and some of the tools they use.
  • My "Draw an Archaeologist" challenge and what I think a scientist's work space might look like
  • The archaeology quizzes we took

On Tuesday, we're learning about underwater archaeology. Ask me about...

  • Our trip to the Kelsey (if I'm in Red or Orange group)
  • The boat I built while we talked about underwater archaeology
  • Our game of underwater archaeology battleship

On Wednesday, we're learning about Michigan archaeology. Ask me about...

  • The Burnham House Archaeology site
  • The atlatl I made, and how native michiganders hunted mastodons
  • The basket or pouch I wove

On Thursday, we're learning about learning from artifacts. Ask me about...

  • Our trip to the Kelsey (if I'm in Blue or Yellow group)
  • How archaeologists describe their artifacts
  • What system of measurement do archaeologists use

On Friday, we're learning about the archaeology process. Ask me about...

  • Our mystery cemetery
  • How archaeologists grid a site
  • How archaeologists sift through a site

Friday, July 17, 2015

Environmental Explorers

Monday was our first day of camp.  We kicked off our ecology week by learning about ecosystems.  Campers learned the difference between living, nonliving, biotic, and abiotic factors of an ecosystem and what ecologists like to study.  We learned about all different kinds of scientist with our Scientist Card Game and even made our own "Scientist Cards" for ourselves.
 We also searched out the different parts of ecosystem with our ecological scavenger hunt.  Campers worked together to find examples of communities, organisms, and different kinds of habitats.

We played "Is THAT Really and Ecosystem", a game that has campers look at everyday scenes and objects and have them determine whether or not it would be considered an ecosystem by science.  It really helped us see these things in a different way.  Lastly, our campers made their own "Biome in a Baggie" a completely self contained greenhouse to grow some wildflower seeds.  Because the ecosystem your child created in the bag is closed, it doesn't require any additional water or food!

Painting snakes!
Wetland's hopscotch!

Tuesday's camp was all about wetlands!  Bogs, marshes, fens, and swamps are all different sorts of wetlands.  Campers learned about why protecting these places is so important with our Wetland Hopscotch activity.  Just as taking away usable squares in hopscotch makes it more difficult to reach the end, removing large areas of wetlands makes it more difficult for our native and migratory birds to survive or reach their wintering grounds.  Our Wetland Metaphor Mystery allowed us to look at all the different ways wetlands help people and animals!  Campers also played Marsh Munchers, a game where we examine the predator/prey relationships in wetlands.  Our prey (snails, small fish, crabs) had to make sure they had enough food tokens for themselves to survive without being eaten by our predators (big fish, raccoons).  We took a closer look at animals that can be found in wetlands when campers were able to paint their own snake.  Ask them, does their snake blend into the marsh background, or does it stand out (a vivid warning)?

We even had time to make some fairy houses

Wednesday, we took a field trip to Nichol's Arboretum!  We used this opportunity to learn about forests.  Forests are an important ecosystem in Michigan and what better way to get to know them like a true scientist than to make your own field guide.  Using other guides for reference, campers set out to fill their own field notebook with drawings and descriptions of he most interesting flora and fauna they could find.
Easier to make with help from our friends

Playing Oh Deer!

Checking out the Huron

Analyzing our water sample
On Thursday, we focused on rivers.  During our Wednesday tip to the Arb, we collected water sample from different sources. First using the scientific method to make predictions, or hypothesis, about what we would find, we examined these samples under stereoscopes and tested their pH, oxygen, and nitrate concentrations.  From his we could discuss and infer the different types of ecosystems the samples came from.  During our "Who Dirtied the Water?" activity we saw how even a little pollution can go a long way as a society grows and begins producing more and different kinds of waste.  
Playing Blue River
During our breaks we continued working on our field guides and at the end of our session all the groups came together for one big game.  Campers were asked to stand in rows that modeled the tributaries and eventually single river of a watershed system.  We mimicked the changes in a river's flow during the seasons and different sorts of weather by passing beads from camper to camper, but applying various rules for each season.  Do you think campers passed the beads very quickly during the spring thaw or the winter freeze?

Friday was our last day of camp and we learned about watersheds.  Watersheds is the area of land where all the water flows to a singular point.  Do you know which watershed you live in?  We learned how to test water quality by simply looking at the local wildlife in our "Ask the Bugs" game.  By determining if a stream has a lot of intolerant species of bug (bugs that cannot tolerate pollution) or tolerant species (bugs that can tolerate pollution and thrive in the absence of tolerant species), we can infer the quality of the water they were found in.  Our "Do You Know Your Watershed" activity asked campers to create and observe a model of a watershed.  After labeling the parts (tributaries, deltas, meanders, etc)
we talked about where we'd want to build a city.  However, with a city comes pollution.  By adding different colored sugars and other inputs, we modeled how different sources of pollution can all affect our watershed.  Campers also got a chance to paint their own healthy river system so they can bring home heir own river art!

Space Explorers

We blasted off deep into space this week in our afternoon session.  Our campers learned about space missions past, present, and future, and learned what it takes to be an astronaut!

A shelter fit for the moon!

On Monday, we learned about the explorations of our Moon.  Campers learned about the technology behind landing spacecrafts and tested it out by tossing their personal designs over the edge of the Rotunda balcony.  Ask your camper how their's fared!  The Green group put together a shelter fit for the moon while Red group visited our planetarium for a special show, Larry Cat in Space.  
A successful touchdown.
Showing off their telescopes.

On Tuesday we explored new planets and learned about telescopes.  Our campers learned how telescopes can be used to see previously unseen images in space, just like New Horizons which neared Pluto and gave us a new look at the dwarf planet.  Yellow and Green groups made their own functioning telescopes (ask them why the image is upside-down!) and watched Two Small Pieces of Glass, one of our planetarium shows.  Meanwhile, the Red group discovered and explored a strange new planet.  Ask your camper what they found!

Our day coincided perfectly with the New Horizons mission!
We worked up a sweat on Wednesday with astronaut training!  Campers tested their agility, coordination, balance, and problem solving with special training missions.  They learned what it's like to work in tight spaces, how to communicate from "Earth" to the "ISS," and do some variations of the vigorous training it takes to become an astronaut!  We also learned about life in space from Astronaut Chris Hadfield's YouTube videos.  Ask your camper how life would be different in space!

From Mission control...
...To outer space!

Agility training!
Campers explored Mars on Thursday.  We learned about what we would need to create a community on Mars and then campers made their own Mars dioramas.  Campers acted as rovers and were guided through a "rocky" course to acquire samples to be sent back for research.  We also experimented with volcanoes and lava layering to understand how we can test core samples from Mars to learn about it's geological time. 

Our "rovers" exploring Mars.
A wonderful Mars diorama!

Friday was a blast with water rockets!  Our campers worked together to design and create rockets, which we then launched in Palmer Field.  Ask your camper how the designs worked!
Ready for liftoff!
A team of engineers from Red Group.

This week has been filled with fun and we hope you had a blast!