Today was Day 1 of Session 2 of the Summer Nature Camp. We were greeted with bright blue skies, cool temperatures, and calm winds. The first day of camp is always a bit hectic: signing-in, getting supplies, and meeting teammates and the camp staff. The campers were patient through it all and settled in very nicely. Ask your camper which team they're on: Beavers, Chickadees, or Owls.
We were greeted by a flyover by a flock of our friends from the north...
Charlie Graham, Camp Director, kicked off the camp, explaining what we will be doing this week. It was obvious that the campers were excited to get going. Charlie introduced Seth, a Friends of the Refuge employee, who is the Environmental Education Specialist. Seth explained that the Refuge is "all about the animals" and gave the campers some important rules to follow. Ask your camper what we all should do if we find something really cool while out on the trails.
Charlie then led the Teams out to the plaza in front of the Visitors Center and did an exercise to help the campers get to know each other.
Charlie's holding some cute, furry animals in his arms here, ask your camper what he, and then everyone, did with these animals. (Hint: no one was injured during the exercise.)
The campers were each given their "journal" in which they will capture their experiences, observations and thoughts during the week. Robin, the Naturalist with the Owls Team, gave some hints on how to keep an organized journal.
During each camp session, when the weather cooperates, Charlie "fires up" his solar ovens. He cooks food for the campers for a snack at the end of the day. Here, Charlie explains how the solar ovens work. Ask you camper how the ovens get hot.
Tom Shreve, a Camp Photographer, took a picture of each team as they left the EE Shelter to head out onto the trails.
Tom's getting the Team Photo of the Beavers. Ginny Maffit is the Naturalist for the Beavers.
Tim Wood, the Naturalist for the Chickadees, points out something of interest on the trail just before the team get to the ponds.
Each team did a Sit/Spot and some journaling during their first walk.
Robin Harrower, the Naturalist for the Owls, took her team to the Oak Woodlands. Ask your camper what a Sit/Spot is.
Many of the campers were intrigued with the Oak Galls that they observed on both the branches and leaves of the many oak trees in the open area. Ask your camper how these galls get formed, and what lives inside them.
Ginny gave an overview of how trees live. She led the campers in an exercise called "Build a Tree." Each camper became a part of a tree, demonstrating how the tree stands tall and strong, how if gets water and nutrients from the earth, how it pumps the nutrients up to the leaves, how the leaves create the nourishment for the tree and send it back down the trunk, and how the tree protects itself.
Ask your camper what part of the tree they were, and how they signaled what that part does for the rest of the tree.
Robin led a discussion of animals' "Pelts and Skulls," The campers were shown pelts from real animals that have been seen on the Refuge and how their pelt helps them survive in their particular environment.
Here, Robin displays the pelt of a bobcat. What does the fur feel like? Why is it so beautifully spotted?
Berk Moss, a Friends Naturalist and the Head of the Team Leaders and Camp Assistants, gave Robin some help in comparing a couple of skulls.
Ask your campers how the eye placement in the skull of a predator differs from a prey animal and how that helps the animal.
We ended the session with each team naming a spokesperson who reported their team's experiences during the day. Sam, speaking for the Owls, noted that the galls were very interesting. Her team saw a beautiful yellow and black spider on one of the benches along the trail. They also saw a black feral cat near the pond. Kristen, of the Beavers, and her team saw a "true Cedar" along the trail. They also crossed paths with a friendly group of photographers, who shared some amazing pictures of birds. Mackenzie, of the Chickadees, reported seeing four bullfrogs near the pond, with lots of minnows and tadpoles in the water.
The sun cooperated nicely today, so the campers enjoyed some solar-cooked potatoes. Very tasty!
This was a great day for all. The teams have come together nicely, and appear to be poised for a great week!