Camp Blog 2017 

Welcome to the 2017 Nature Camp Blog! We will be posting information and photos of our daily activities on this page. We encourage campers and their families to visit here daily to learn about our experiences and see what the Friends of the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Summer Camp is all about.

  • July 15, 2017 3:50 PM | Anonymous

    Day 5 of Nature Camp was Reflections Day. The intent of this day is to get the campers to review what they've experienced, to cement some bonds with their camp mates, and to recognize what they've learned.

    The campers completed and bound the covers onto their journals and framed their pictures. Their activities "artifacts" were moved to the Riparian Room in the Visitors Center and put on display for the families of the campers to review. The campers and staff went out onto the trails as teams for an extended time in the morning to enjoy the refuge as friends, not just teammates. The 2017 Nature Camp Team Picture was taken as the teams went out for their walk.

    We had some trouble taking the picture. It was difficult to get all 37 folks in place, the banner was hard to keep aligned in the strong breeze, and the campers had to face the bright sun to get the best light. As we learned on Photo Day, a good picture should tell a story. This photo is a good picture. The days were warm and sunny with enough wind to keep anything not held down blown off the tables. The campers and staff had lots of fun. I think that the picture reflects that.

    When the teams returned, the campers selected their favorite journal page to be photographed for inclusion in the 2017 Nature Camp Book, which will also include their favorite Photo from Photo Day. Charlie showed the campers how to bind the journal covers that they made on Day 2 onto the pages of their journal. 

    The campers also mounted a 4 x 6 inch copy of their favorite picture to keep for themselves.

    Meanwhile, Jessica and Allison, Camp Assistants, mounted the 8 x 10 inch version of their favorite picture onto the walls of the Riparian Room. Allison and Jessica were also charged with the task of setting up the Riparian Room for the end of camp celebration. They did a fantastic job, to include a welcome sign for the celebration.

    Here are a couple of campers' artifacts on display. Each camper received the mounted 4 x 6 picture. Photographer Don Nelson donated an extra 8 x 10 and 4 x 6 copy of the pictures for the campers. Each camper also received a thumb drive that contains all their photographs,  their bound journals, and the bird that they created in the Build-a-Bird activity.

    Ask your camper about the activities that they did after lunch: Be a Tree, Tree Rings, and Origami. A couple of campers with beautiful voices sang a song and taught it to the rest of the campers.

    Charlie baked a couple of banana cakes in the solar ovens that he considered sharing with the families at the celebration. The campers also considered doing that, but decided to eat it themselves instead.

    The Friends Stringed Trio assembled to play some songs for the camp. Ginny played the violin, Sandy played the viola, and Gloria played the mandolin. Ask your camper what the differences are among these instruments.

    The campers then went over to the Plaza Overlook for some dancing as the families arrived. 

    There was a great turnout for the celebration. Lots of parents and siblings, Larry Klimek, the Refuge Project Manager, and much of the adult staff were able to attend. Berk Moss, the Director of the Youth Camp Staff and the creator of this program to develop leadership skills for youth, recognized the contributions of the supporting staff that helped make the camp a success. Lots of smiles all around. We are proud to offer the Nature Camp and get great enjoyment and personal satisfaction when we feel the joy of these kids experiencing and learning to value nature. We hope to see you all on the trails and suggest that you ask your camper to point out really cool things to you during your visits.

    We hope to see your kids again next year.

  • July 13, 2017 7:39 PM | Anonymous

    Day 4 of this year's camp focused on Signs of Nature, with an emphasis on tracking. The intent was to give the campers an introduction to how to interpret "stories." These stories can be deduced from signs that animals leave for us humans to interpret how animals behave and how they interact with their habitat.

    We had a setback this morning. The campers have really enjoyed the afternoon snacks prepared in Charlie's solar ovens. With the overcast skies for the morning and into the afternoon, it didn't seem that we would be able to cook the snack today. Charlie optimistically positioned the ovens and loaded them with potatoes, hoping for the best. We went on with the planned program.

    The campers arrived and many of them immediately dove into their journals, drawing animals and documenting their experiences of the week.

    It's become clear that the kids have begun to enjoy documenting their experiences. It's also clear that these are very talented young people! You'll see the quality of their work on Friday.

    The kids wrapped up their journaling when Seth arrived. Seth and Charlie shared a conversation about a footprint that Charlie found and photographed out on  a trail. Seth described what to look for: how many toes, are there toenails, how big is the footprint, where did he see it? Are there other footprints nearby? Ask your camper why these questions are important in trying to identify who left the footprint.

    Charlie then showed a couple of other photos of other signs of wildlife.

    It was a picture of poop. Seth pointed out how much information is contained in a sample of poop: how big do you think the animal may be, what did it eat, where did the animal leave the poop. An investigator can learn a lot from scat (the naturalist euphemism for poop). Ask your camper why an animal leaves scat on the middle of a trail.

    Charlie then showed Seth another sample of scat. Seth asked Charlie to compare the two samples. The first had a lot of seeds and grasses in it, the second a lot of 'hair.' Is one animal different than another, perhaps one's a carnivore and the other a herbivore. What would a carnivore be likely to find in the habitat that it could eat?

    Seth went on to explain the information he typically records in the field when he finds evidence of an animal.

    He draws a series of sketches: a bird's eye view of the area, a closer-up view of the location, and a detailed sketch of where it was such as in the middle of the trail.

    Robin Harrower, a seasoned Naturalist, joined the group to explain to campers how to record a sketch of animal tracks. Here's a drawing of a bird footprint that she used as an example:

    Ask your camper why she records the size of the footprint.

    Armed with this training, the teams all went out onto the refuge to study the tracks that were made in the concrete on the observation stations. The assignment was to investigate the prints, collect data and sketches, return to the "Labs" in the EE Shelter, and as a team, try to develop a story to propose a plausible interplay among the animals.  Here, Ginny and her team study the tracks at the Plaza Overlook.

    Back at the Lab, the campers were provided with information about animals that may or may not have been those that left the tracks. Using the data from the field, each team was to present their story to all of the teams.

    Here are the some shots of the teams going through their data and researching candidate animals:

    It was fun to watch and listen to the campers discuss and argue about what could have happened between and among the animals. It was satisfying to hear them argue their points based on the data that they collected. It was wonderful to see them agree to disagree and to respect each other's proposal.  Here are some pictures of teams preparing their presentations. These campers haven't been specifically trained on the Scientific Method of discovery, but they certainly were practicing it!

    The presentations were very well done. Sarah Williams, our Environmental Restoration Specialist, attended the presentations. One team was unable to reach consensus on a conclusion, but both versions of the story fit the data very well. That team gave two skits describing the interaction between predator and prey.

    Robin led a discussion of animals Pelts and Skulls in the Classroom. Ask your camper how a predator's skull equips it to be a successful hunter and how a prey's skull is adapted to allow it to survive. Ask your camper why a coyote's pelt is soft and fluffy and a river otter's pelt is thick and smooth.

    Oh, the sun did come out mid-afternoon. Charlie's potatoes were cooked to perfection. Another great day at Nature Camp!

  • July 12, 2017 7:24 PM | Anonymous

    Day 3 is Birds Day. Birds are a big part of the wonder of our Refuge. We are located on the Pacific Flyway, serving as a stopover or home to hundreds of thousands of birds every year representing hundreds of different species. I recently learned that a survey of the number of different species on the refuge when it was first established was a mere 18 species. Now the number is well over 200! The amazing efforts of many talented biologists and nature-lovers over the past almost 25 years has paid off for the birds. 

    We had another wonderful weather day, cool and clear all morning and not too hot as the day wore on. We spent less time on the trails than yesterday, but were kept busy nevertheless. 

    The day began with an overview of birds presented by our "Bird Lady," Marilyn Ellis. Marilyn has a great talent for sharing her knowledge and passion for birds in fun and engaging ways. We filled the Environmental Education Classroom with all 28 of the campers and the Camp Staff.

    For this year's overview, Marilyn used a volunteer camper to play the role of a bird and then loaded the camper with the miraculous adaptations that allow birds to fly, some for thousands of miles during migration. Birds have body features specialized to their needs, such as nictitating membranes to protect the eyes of birds who fly up to 240 miles per hour, air sacs to allow some to fly at extreme altitudes, magnetic sensors to help the birds know where they are, the ability to use the stars to chart their flight paths, etc. The volunteer 'wore' symbols of these features. Ask your camper which symbols represented some of these adaptations.

    Marilyn asked a group of campers to try to duplicate the flapping of birds' wings, from about 2 beats per second for the large birds, such as herons, to over 70 beats per second for small birds, such as hummingbirds. Impossible for us mere humans.

    Each team of campers rotated among 4 stations for specific activities. One station was not directly related to birds, but was a continuation of the Camp's journaling focus. The campers made paper covers for their journals from recycled shredded paper. Sandy Reid, a Volunteer Naturalist, helped the kids create the covers.

    Here, Sandy shows the campers what the end product will look like.

    Here are a couple of pictures of a camper putting some finishing touches on her cover, embossing the paper pulp with ferns and leaves, and rolling the water from the pulp.

    Seth Winkelhake, our Environmental Education Specialist, prepared a video compressing the process into a 30-second experience. Check it out.

    Ask your camper what they used to emboss their cover.

    It's not a requirement to know the names of all of the birds we see to enjoy and admire them. But by learning how they differ gives most people a greater appreciation for their diversity. The campers were provided a set of binoculars and trained how to use them. Ask your camper how to quickly find a subject with binoculars by "beginning with your eyes and not moving your head." Don Holland, a talented birder Naturalist helped the kids master the skill.
    Don and Berk Moss, our most senior Volunteer Naturalist, explained the A,B,Cs of bird identification: Activity, Body, and Color. Ask your camper how to implement the ABCs. It's a concept that develops over time. Today was another one of cooperation of the animals on the refugee. Particularly dramatic was the recurring presence of an osprey hunting for food just beyond the Plaza Overlook, in full view of our campers learning Bird Identification.
    Ospreys soar over the water looking for food, hover when they see a meal, and then dive onto the water to snatch it in their talons.

    Marilyn offered a station to allow each team to get more specific details about the adaptations birds have to enable them to survive in their specific niche in the environment. Their nests, eggs, feathers, skulls, wings, talons, beaks, etc. enable each bird to thrive at their specialty. Ask your camper to describe some of the various nests that birds make.

    Each camper was asked to design a bird using various types of body parts: heads and necks, feet, wings, tails, and body shapes.  
    The challenge was to assemble the various parts into a bird and then describe how that imaginary bird is equipped to survive. Charlie Graham, our Camp Director, led the exercise.

    The campers had a great time using their imagination to design their own bird. Ask you camper how they chose the parts for their bird.

    As a carryover from Photo Day, two of our most talented photographers, Don Nelson and Bjorn Frederickson, met one-on-one with all of the campers to review the photographs that the campers took yesterday and select the shot that the camper liked the most. These pictures will be printed for posting at the Refuge, a copy printed and framed for the camper, and a thumb drive for each camper with all of their pictures downloaded onto it. The favorite photos will also be published in the Nature Camp Book and displayed in the Visitors Center.
    After some amazing solar berry cobbler and potatoes from Charlie's ovens, a sit spot on the trails, and a game run by Seth we called it a day. It was a busy day, but the campers reported that they had a great time.
  • July 11, 2017 7:07 PM | Anonymous

    Day 2 is Photography Day. This is the day that that campers spend the most time out on the trails. Having moved to an all-day camp, the campers enjoy more time with the cameras that we loan to them. Outdoor camps can be risky. The afternoons can get very warm. So far this year, we've been fortunate with cool mornings and tolerable afternoons. 

    We began the day with the campers making bracelets and journaling as the kids arrived. Ask your camper about the "magic" bracelets.

    Charlie displayed the 2016 Camp Book to the group. Each year, the kids choosetheir favorite pictures and their favorite journal pages. Those are made into a book that we "publish" and put on display in the Visitors Center.  The campers seemed impressed. From what we've seen so far, this year's book should also be amazing.

    Don Nelson, Friends Board Member and excellent photographer, gave the kids some pointers on how to compose and capture pictures that "tell a story." He showed some examples of perspective:

    and explained the Rule of Thirds:

    Don and another Friends Photographer, Bjorn, will download all of each camper's pictures onto their computer, copy them onto thumb drives for each camper, and assist each camper in selecting their favorites. Each camper's first picture was of themselves and their nametag so that Don and Bjorn will know whose pictures are on each camera. Here, Misa, the Team Leader for the Squirrels, is taking the first picture for Alex.

    The teams all went out onto the trails and immediately got up close to their subjects.


    Each year, the Camp Staff is impressed with how having a camera in their hand causes the kids to slow down and look carefully at things that they would naturally just walk on by. 

    Today, the critters on the refuge really cooperated:

    One big attraction was a litter of coyote pups that each team was able to see romping around in the grass.

    By the time I was able to get to the viewing site, the pups had gone down into a ditch in the grass. All I got was a good view of coyote ears.

    Some of the teams chose to take a bit of a break for their snack and a sit spot. Here, the Flickers are on the trail to the photo blind.

    Ask your camper what their favorite subject(s) were for their pictures. 

    All the teams met for lunch, a post-lunch game, and some journaling beforeheading out for a longer sit spot at the same location that they went to yesterday. The objective was to compare what they observed yesterday morning to this afternoon.

    Ask your camper how the two visits differed.

    Everyone returned to the EE Shelter for a snack and the daily debrief. We asked each team to list what animals their team saw during the day. The Squirrels tallied 13 different species, the Chickadees 16 different species, the Owls 18 species, and the Flickers reported 30 species! Many of the species were seen by all of the teams but each team reported some that the others didn't see. Nature observation isn't intended to be a competition among the campers, but perhaps the Camp Staff was a bit competitive. Everyone had a great time today!

    The parents picked up their campers while they were playing a game in the field. We sent home a lot of tired campers again today. 

  • July 10, 2017 7:15 PM | Anonymous

    Welcome to the Blog for this year's Nature Camp!

    We had a cool and sunny morning to greet the campers. There's lots of frenzy on the first day: camper check-in, finding their camp team and staff, getting supplies, etc. With lots of help from all of the staff, and the cooperation of the campers and their parents, all went well.

    The campers and staff were welcomed by Eva Kristofik, the Refuge DeputyManager. We rely on the support of the Fish and Wildlife Service Staff for access to the Refuge facilities and to prepare for the special needs of the camp, such as a Porta-Potty and area for group games and activities. Eva and the FWS Staff really do enjoy seeing the smiling faces of the campers and staff at the Refuge. This year, a couple of the campers are children of the FWS Staff.

    Charlie Graham, our Camp Director, convenes the campers in an activity to begin to get to know one another. A favorite is the Animal Toss, a way for the campers to learn each other's names. Ask your camper how the game is played. Rest assured that these animals have become used to the game over the past few years and are not seriously harmed.

    A member of the Nature Camp Stringed orchestra, Gloria Moss, introduced the campers to the Camp Song. Ask you camper to sing it for you. They may need a few more practice sessions to master the tune.

    An important teaching at Nature Camp is that of Nature Journaling. Each day, we ask the campers to capture their thoughts and draw some sketches of whatever interests them. It's an artifact of the camp that we hope they will save over the years. More importantly, we hope to instill an interest in the campers to maintain a log of their experiences in nature after the camp is complete. Here, a couple of campers are assembling pages into their logs. Charlie taught them how to make a "book" of paper, held together without glue, staples or tape. See if they can teach you or their friends and siblings how to make a journal.

    On their way out onto the trails for the first time, we had the Camp Teams stop for a photo:

         The Flickers

       The Chickadees

       The Owls

    The Squirrels

    Each team has a Team Call and a Team Tree. Ask you campers what their team's are. We also stopped at the oldest trees on the Refuge, the Garry Oaks next to the service road. We had arranged for the tree to "tell its story" to the campers. The tree explained many of its experiences over its 350-year lifetime to the campers. See if your camper can explain how the tree talked to them!

    The campers experienced their first sit-spot this morning. They walked to a specificarea and spent some time looking for interesting things and capturing them in their journals. Some campers prefer to draw, others prefer to write. Whatever they enjoy is fine. The journal is their own property, much like a diary would be. Here, a couple of the Owls are journaling at the Forest Study Site.

    After lunch at the EE Shelter, the teams went back out to study their team tree. They had a series of observations to record about their tree and then return to the EE Shelter and report on their tree to the whole camp.

    The camp went out to play a few games after the Tree Reporting. The games were spaced around a break for some solar-cooked food, courtesy of Charlie's Solar Ovens. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the baked potatoes with ketchup or ranch dressing. You may want to check out the ovens when you drop off your camper. They're amazing.

    It's been a long day. You camper and the camp staff should sleep well tonight. I know that I will!

© Friends of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
    19255 SW Pacific Hwy
    Sherwood OR 97140

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the mission of the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge 

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