Summer Camp!

This week has been the most tiring so far, but also the most satisfying. Every day, about twenty 6-8 year old children have been coming to the refuge for summer camp. I’ve never seen kids with so much energy! Wide awake at 8 a.m., they ran around the entire visitor center, exploring, playing games, and continually hitting the buttons to light up our migration flyway map (they loved the colors). We spent the first day introducing the kids to the refuge and to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The first activity was the giant floor puzzle I talked about in my last blog post, which was a big hit with the kids. I think they liked that it was such a big puzzle, and so colorful; they could run around and work together to make a really big, pretty picture. Then, we went on a long walk on one of the trails, so the kids could observe wildlife. They saw turtles, fish, tadpoles, ducks, and an osprey. They all enjoyed taking turns using the big binoculars on the boardwalk. By lunchtime, the kids were all dragging their feet, but they perked right back up once they saw the snacks and juice we had set up.

On Tuesday, we were without power for most of the morning, due to the huge thunderstorm we had Monday night. It didn’t stop the kids though; they were still here bright and early, this time to do a scavenger hunt around the visitor center. The building is made from various recycled materials, such as rubber tires, plastic bottles, and wood chips, and we have a small sample of each kind of material. Each group received a sample, then ran around the building to find where that sample was used, and answer questions about it. The kids were really excited that they could find everything themselves, rather than just be told what the material was. Afterwards, Erika and Frankie introduced the kids to solar energy, first by showing them the solar exhibit we have on display. Then, the kids set up pizza box solar ovens with different materials inside, to see which material had the most heat. The day ended with the kids learning how to use a solar bag. It was more or less a giant black trash bag, which we filled up with air by having the kids run around holding the bag open. Then, we tied the bag closed and it actually floated! The kids thought it was the coolest thing ever, and were so excited.

Wednesday was focused on birds, particularly those seen at the refuge. The morning was spent teaching the kids how to identify some common species using the exhibits in the visitor center. Then, we went into the classroom and practiced using binoculars. Pictures of birds were taped around the room for the kids to find, and at different heights and distances so they could learn how to adjust their focus. After lunch, we took the group outside for a bird walk and to play Migration Headache. I worked with Frankie on the game, which is basically a bird version of Mother May I. The kids asked me (the mother) if they could move forward, and if I said yes, Frankie read off a card of some bird-related activity that the kids had to act out. Everything was related to migration, with some activities allowing the kids to migrate successfully, and some that resulted in the kids “dying.”

The final day of camp, Thursday, was a celebration of the week. The morning was spent on a service project, where the kids pulled weeds in front of the visitor center. They also decorated a giant version of the USFWS logo with their favorite activity of the week. Then, the parents arrived, and we presented a slide show of photos from the week. Each kid received a certificate for finishing the camp, as well as a patch from the refuge. To finish off the week, we made hummingbird feeders, bee bundles, and bird feeders for the kids to take home. When it came time to leave, all of the kids asked if they could stay, and several came up to me and asked if they’d see me again here. It was so sweet, and they promised to come visit with their families. Hopefully, this camp will have resulted in some new dedicated visitors to the refuge.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by ferninphilly on June 28, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks for the overview, it sounds like a great experience for the kids and hopefully for you too! Can you give me more info about the “bee bundles?” I am focusing on pollinators for Summer Sunday School this year.
    Thanks in advance for any links, ideas, or suggestions!


    • Thank you for reading! A bee bundle is a home for carpenter/mason bees (these are the ones that do not sting). There’s several ways to make them, but we made ours from recycled/unwanted materials. Each child brought in a cardboard toilet paper roll from home, and we provided paper straws for the inside. Each toilet paper roll was stuffed with paper straws, and I mean completely stuffed, to the point where none will fall out if you hold it upside down. The straws had to be cut to size, which we helped the kids do. Then, we glued a circle of construction paper to the back, so that only one end was open for the bees. Then, the bee bundles can be placed outside, in trees, bushes, even porches of homes. Almost any material can be used to make bee bundles, including bamboo and Japanese Knotweed (an invasive species here in Philly). — here’s a cool link about why to create bee bundles.
      I hope this helps!!


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