Archive for July, 2013

Summer Camp #2

And I thought the 6-8 year old kids tired me out– I was wrong! This week we had a second summer camp session, this time for 9-11 year old children. This group had an overwhelming amount of boys compared to girls, and every single kid had an endless amount of energy. We used more or less the same activities for this camp as we did the last one, but we made them a little bit more challenging. There were days when I thought we hadn’t made them challenging enough, since the kids were having such an easy time of it. I don’t think I’ve ever met a group of kids who knew so much about the environment at that age. They knew all about composting and recycling and different kinds of energy; I even heard a few kids talk about different methods of bird banding! Day 1 was spent as an introduction day, so the kids could learn about the refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We did the puzzle activity again, this time with the pieces upside down, so they wouldn’t know which one they were choosing. We also took them on a long hike around the refuge. We had our recycle scavenger hunt on Day 2, which the kids treated as a serious competition. Our recycling relay game that afternoon was a big hit, since these kids were so competitive. They wanted to keep playing the game, so we started making it more and more challenging. The kids had to get their recyclable materials or trash to the right bin while completing various tasks: jumping on one foot the entire way, running backwards, crab walking, even a three-legged race. Day 3 was our bird day again, and the kids had a rare sight as soon as we walked out the doors–a fully mature bald eagle flying directly overhead! We have a nesting pair on the refuge, and this one decided to give the camp kids a treat while he/she went hunting. I think the birds all wanted to show off that day. We had a Great Blue Heron and a White Egret fishing in the Impoundment about 10 feet from each other, and in perfect view of the kids. They were able to compare the birds’ wingspans and sizes, and figure out how the birds were standing in the water. Day 4 was Parent day, and the hottest day we’d had so far in camp. We tired the kids out in the morning by taking them outside to play various environment-related games. We had a couple of games that simulated wildlife survival and hunting, but the kids were still full of energy after them. So, it turned into a giant game of tag until we took them inside for their presentation. We showed a PowerPoint of the week, gave out the kids’ certificates, and worked on some take-home arts and crafts.IMG_1175 IMG_5031 IMG_6325 IMG_7992 IMG_9373 IMG_9966

Estuaries Education

This week, the interns of the refuge (me, Jenelle, and Frankie) were able to attend an Estuaries Education conference. The 3 day event is a professional development opportunity for teachers to learn more about the environment and the key roles estuaries play, focusing on the Delaware Estuary. We used the conference as a resource to learn new ways we can run our summer camps at the refuge. Day 1 was spent in Salem, New Jersey, at PSEG’s Energy and Environmental Resource Center. We had several lectures about various kinds of energy, such as nuclear, wind, and coal. We also had a lecture about the estuary and its structure, and we had a special lecture about oysters, in which we were able to open them up and examine the insides. Days 2 and 3 were spent in Delaware, learning about anything and everything relating to estuaries. We learned about horseshoe crabs, wind energy, invasive species, estuary enhancement, and oil spill clean up. It of course decided to rain our entire trip, but we still managed to do all of our activities. We went on a tour of an emergency oil spill clean up boat, where we talked firsthand to the operators of the ship. We also went onto the beach–in an absolute downpour–with two University of Delaware grad students, who showed us how to seine the water, and identify what we found. As we walked along the beach, I saw my very first horseshoe crab! It was a male, flipped over in the surf. We were able to examine him, then set him free in the water. We caught a bunch of stuff in the net, as well. There were at least 10 blue crabs, one of which was wrapped up in fishing line. Someone had a pair of scissors, so we were able to cut it loose. There was also a bunch of mummichogs (a little fish), and a big flounder. It was crazy; the net was only walked out about 10 feet from the shore–if that–yet we were able to see so much.

nuclear display

nuclear display

oysters

oysters

fiddler crab!

fiddler crab!

a horseshoe crab shell on the beach

a horseshoe crab shell on the beach

more oysters!

more oysters!

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pseg visitor center

pseg visitor center

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Never-Ending Paint Fumes

The last week has been mostly indoors, partly because of the weather, and partly because of the project I’ve been working on. The refuge has a boardwalk stretching over the Impoundment, with a series of paintings of birds and turtles known to be seen around there. The paintings are a few years old, and extremely faded from the rain and heat. So, over the last week I have been repainting the signs. It’s slow going– even with Jenelle and another volunteer painting as well, only two are fully completed, and another two are half completed. The paintings look so much better for it though; just sanding down the wood made them look newer, and the touched up colors make the birds almost look real. I think it’s kind of funny that I get to do this project. I wanted to be an artist when I was younger, and I still draw and make stuff in my free time. Once I decided to pursue environmental science as a career though, I told myself that I would figure out a way to do art in my job, whether it was just for my own amusement or for the field I ended up working in. I thought this would be years down the road, when I had more control over my work. Instead, I get to fulfill that promise–which I made around age 14–right now, in an internship, because the refuge staff saw it was a project I would really enjoy doing, and they thought I could do a good job with it. So, thank you, John Heinz staff!!!

This past week was also the start of the Student Conservation Association community crew program for Philadelphia high school students. About 50 students came to the refuge for training on Monday and Tuesday, so that they could finish paperwork and get an idea of the work they would be doing this summer. On Tuesday, the refuge staff had to talk to the students, so that they could learn more about the refuge and the kinds of careers that could be available to them. This meant I had to talk as well, since I am an alumni of the community program and still a part of SCA for this internship. The funniest part of the day was introducing the students to the Teddy Roosevelt mascot of John Heinz refuge. Every year, someone has to dress up in the bear costume for the SCA event, and this year an alumni did it. The students thought it was pretty funny, especially when Mariana revealed who was in the costume. Ha ha!IMG_1452 IMG_1455 IMG_1479 IMG_1484 IMG_1470