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!

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