Friday, August 5, 2016

Nature Detectives

Nature Detectives week has been filled with all sorts of fun nature-themed activities! We played games, did experiments, made crafts, and used our critical thinking skills to better understand our natural world. Here is some insight into what we did this week!

On Monday, we learned about animals. We looked at some backyard clue cards, that showed animal track patterns we would see in our backyard. Campers used their detective skills to analyze the tracks and figure out what animals they belonged to and what was happening in the scene. We continued learning about different animal tracks by making molds of track imprints. Campers got to choose from a selection of animal tracks, and used clay to make a mold of it! We got to see how different animals have racks with very different sizes, shapes, and claw patterns. We also got to look at molds of animal scat! Although some campers wondered why we would ever show them animal scat, we explained how much animal scat can actually tell us about an animal's life. We got to see how different animals' scat looks different based on what it eats and how it digests it. Campers also learned about how nature information is presented in field guides, and then made their own field guide page for humans. They thought about what kind of information would be important to include, and what kind of pictures they would want to show. Finally, campers learned about camouflage and why animals use it to protect themselves. We scattered pieces of different colored yearn in the grass, and campers had to search for as many pieces as they could. They found the fewest pieces of green and brown yarn, showing them how animals can hide from predators more easily if they match their environment. Then they got to construct their own camouflage animal that would blend in to one of two Michigan habitats: a Beech Maple forest or sand dunes.

Campers make molds of animal tracks
A camper shows off his Field Guide to Humans
Some campers were not too fond of the scat molds...
Campers analyze the backyard clue cards
Campers look at molds of animal scat
Campers create animals that would be camouflage
 in a Michigan habitat

Tuesday we looked more closely at habitats. We played a game that simulated how bears search for food and water in the forest. Campers scrambled to collected different pieces of paper that represented nuts, meat, water, and other essentials that bears need. Campers needed 80 pounds of food in order to survive, which is how much bears need in a 10 day period. Not all campers were able to collected the 80 pounds they needed, which showed us how challenging it can be for bears to survive in their habitat! Next, we learned about wetland habitats. We built wetland models using clay and florists foam, and saw how wetlands absorb water that drains off of solid land. We also created wetland scenes  by drawing a wetland landscape and then gluing in images of different wetland animals. We then played a game called "Stake a claim", where groups of campers were assigned an animal and had to "claim" an area of land outside the Museum that would be a good habitat for their animal. We talked about what kinds of food sources and shelter different animals may need as they searched for a perfect home.

Campers make their wetland models
Campers create wetland scenes
Campers claim a habitat area for their
animal (chipmunk!)
Campers scramble for bear food. We tried to
 get a clearer photo but they were just
moving so quickly!

Wednesday, we took a very hot but very fun field trip to he Arboretum! At the Arb, we did a producer-consumer-decomposer scavenger hunt where we looked for different kinds of producers, consumers and decomposers. Purple and Red group also got to do a Biotic/Abiotic scavenger hunt where they looked for biotic components of the Arb habitat (things that are alive or have been alive at some point, like leaves or dead logs), and abiotic components (things that are not and never have been living, like air and water). We also collected leaves and other nature material to use in a painting activity on Thursday. Campers really enjoyed seeing some exciting wildlife up close, including ducks, small fish, some sort of amphibian that looked like a salamander, a Great Blue Heron, and several cicada shells!

A camper looks at a cicada shell
Campers watch some friendly ducks

A camper crosses things off of
his scavenger hunt

Thursday was all about plants. We crushed up the leaves we found at the Arb in some water and rubbing alcohol, and used the pigment to do nature watercolor paintings. We did a tree identification activity where we learned about the different features of leaves, like whether they have simple or compound leaf structures, or if the leaves are smooth or toothed. Campers were given unidentified leaves and went through dichotomous key stations, looking at the different features of their leaf to determine what kind of tree it came from. We also did an activity called Tree Factory, where campers acted out different parts of a tree, like the heartwood, the xylem, the phloem and the roots. For example, the bark protects the tree, so campers lacked arms, marched in a circle around the campers forming the center of the tree,and chanted "We are bark. Please keep out." Red and Purple group learned about the Fibonacci sequence, and looked at different items like a pine cone and pine branch, to see how the Fibonacci sequences appears in the spirals and patterns on the items. Orange and Yellow groups did a scavenger hunt in the Butterfly Garden outside the Museum, looking for things like a Robin and a Purple Coneflower.

A camper mixes leaves to make watercolor paint.
Campers look for Fibonacci sequence
patterns in a pine branch
A camper searches for things during the
Butterfly Garden scavenger hunt
A camper uses a dichotomous key to
figure out what kind of leaf he is holding!
Campers figure out what kinds of
leaves they have.
Campers act out the parts of a tree

On Friday, we talked about what happens what nature becomes unnatural- when it is polluted. Campers walked along an "unnature trail" and searched for 10 items in our butterfly Garden that were unnatural, like a toothbrush and a paintbrush- what would THOSE be doing in a garden?? We did a coldwater current lab, and watched a current form as a blue ice cube melted into a bowl of warm water. We talked about how how currents can carry unwanted pollution through water. We talked about how animals adapt to their changing environment and how they react to pollutants, and campers go to design a futuristic animal based on one that currently exists. They had to think about what kind of changes are happening in the animals' habitat, and how the animal would change to adapt to them. Campers got very creative, with ideas like a futuristic human that has a lot of body hair to stay warm in a freezing climate, or a squirrel that has 5kg of muscle to survive among the polar ice caps. Finally, campers came to the rescue as the clean-up crew for an oil spill. We recreated an oil spill in a tin pan that had left a coating of oil on rocks and leaves, and campers worked in groups to test different materials and see which material worked best to clean up the oil. They experimented with pipettes, cotton balls, paper towel, yarn, pipe cleaners, and other materials.

Campers clean up their oil spill
Campers watch for currents from a blue ice cube
Campers search for unnatural items
in the Butterfly Garden
Campers search for items on the "unnature trail"
Campers show off their futuristic animal creations

Campers show off their Oil Spill Clean-Up Crew badges!

We had a very fun week exploring all sides of nature, and hope your campers learned a lot too! Next week we will be exploring all types of natural science in the morning during Natural Science Extravaganza, and putting on our paleontologist hats in the afternoon for Paleontology Rocks! We hope to see some of you there!

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