We arrived to a beautiful morning with cool temperatures and clear blue skies. Today's theme was Signs of Wildlife. We planned two activities for the day: CSI or Critter Scene Investigation, and Owl Pellet Dissection.
CSI is a new activity for the Nature Camp. Robin Harrower, a Volunteer Naturalist, designed the activity, hoping to take advantage of the many animal tracks laid out on the concrete structures on the Refuge. They can be seen at the Plaza Overlook, the EE Shelter, the River Overlook and the Wetlands Overlook.
The tracks were applied by professional biologists, who were careful to space each footprint exactly as the animal would have as they walked, hopped, ran, or landed on the ground. The biologists had specific stories of interactions among the animals that could be found on the Refuge that they incorporated into the tracks. Robin created an activity that guides the campers through an investigation to identify the animals involved and perhaps collect enough data to propose a story that fits the data they collect. Seth Winkelhake, our new Environmental Education Specialist, joined the Friends in May. Seth is a certified Master Tracker. Robin invited him to finalize the activity. This Session represents the initial exposure of CSI.
Here, Robin describes the activity to the campers,
Since Robin is also the lead for the other activity of the day, Owl Pellet Dissection, Seth led her team, the Owls, through CSI. Here, the Chickadees head out to their 'station' at the River Overlook.
When the Chickadees arrived at the overlook, Team Leader, Michi, and Camp Assistant, Bryanna, used brushes to clear the debris from the tracks while the campers began the journal entry for the activity.
The campers sketched footprints of the various animals in the concrete, collected data about the size of the prints, how they were spaced, and how the footprints suggested possible interactions among the animals.
Each team returned to the EE Shelter to review guides, books, and literature related to animal identification of animals by tracks and where the animals live, what they eat, etc. The campers discussed the data, the animals involved in the story, the interaction among those animals to propose a story of what may have happened based on the data they collected. Ask your camper which animals were involved in their story and what they thought happened among them.
The teams that arrived earlier participated in a game of "Bear, Bug, and Frog" while waiting for the later team. Charlie led the game. The game is based on the premise that "Bears eat frogs, frogs eat bugs, and bugs eat bears." Ask you camper how the game is played.
When all of the teams were back from the EE Shelter, they went over to the EE Classroom, where Robin introduced them to the Owl Pellet Dissection activity. Robin has led owl pellet dissection for many classes of children. She thoroughly enjoys the activity. Her enthusiasm for it is contagious among the kids. They very quickly overcome and yuckyness associated with it and become just as enthusiastic as Robin. Here, Robin introduces the activity to the campers.
As the campers began to tease the bones from their pellet, Robin described how to sort the bones and glue them to their card.
Here, Team Lead Michi helps a camper with her pellet...
The campers will be able to take their cards home with them after camp. You should know that when camper Trevor says that he had three complete skulls in his pellet, he's not exaggerating. Or when camper Alexus says that her pellet had a completely intact set of connected foot bones, she's correctly describing this very rare observation.
This was a very fun and informative day for the campers. It's probably accurate to say that they learned a whole lot without even realizing it!
Many thanks to Robin Harrower, who invested a lot into making this another great day for the campers!