Posts Tagged ‘United States Fish and Wildlife Service’

The Last Summer Camp

Of the three camps we’ve run this summer, this last one has definitely been the most challenging. We planned on this camp being composed of 12-14 year old kids; instead, we had twelve 10-15 year old kids, which made it a bit challenging to do all of our activities, because we were counting on having all older kids. It worked out pretty well though. The games and walks we did all had some sort of focus on careers in the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, from biology to maintenance, and management to law enforcement. On day 1, the kids were mini wildlife biologists. They gathered samples of microscopic life from the small boardwalk on the Impoundment, and learned to prepare their own sample slides to view under microscopes. Day 2 was our usual recycling day, with the Object Scavenger Hunt and Recycle Relay. The kids enjoyed the games, but you could tell the older kids wanted more of a challenge. Day 3 was just a huge walking day. We took the kids out with binoculars, and from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon, we walked around the refuge. We walked about 2 miles round trip, and the kids saw some pretty awesome sights, such as the Great Blue Herons and White Egrets fishing right next to each other. It was a long walk, and it tired the group out (me included), but they enjoyed getting to see so much of the refuge. We had nice weather all week, thanks to the end of the heat wave, but it rained all day on Thursday, the last day of camp. Day 4 was just going to be en environmental game day, but we planned all of our games to be done outdoors. It was a challenge to adapt our schedule and activities into being all indoors, but it worked out. We started the day off playing our own version of the card game Slap Jack, using a deck of cards decorated with different USFWS careers. We read off a description of a career option, then flipped over the cards one at a time. The kids had to smack the card they thought matched the career we described, and earned a point for every right answer. Each kid also received their own deck of cards, so they can play this game at home. After that, the kid worked on their nature journals. The journals were composed of drawings and short paragraphs about their favorite parts of camp. The final activity was an obstacle course about the life cycle of semelparous fish (fish that only breed once in their lifetime, then die). The game is called Hooks and Ladders, and allowed each kid to be an American Shad, trying to get from their freshwater river to the ocean, where they lived for four years, then returning back to the river for spawning. Obstacles included getting under a limbo pole (ie., our broom), getting past predatory animals (two campers), a fisherman (another camper), up the fish ladder of the river (hula hoops), and over a waterfall (a scarf tied to two chairs at knee height). We did this course indoors, using the hallway and a classroom, and it worked pretty well. The kids were full of energy, so they just enjoyed the fact that they could run around, but they learned a lot from the activity. I questioned them afterwards about different parts of the fish’s life cycle, and they answered everything.

a huge snapping turtle the St. Joe's University group showed us

a huge snapping turtle the St. Joe’s University group showed us

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object scavenger hunt

object scavenger hunt

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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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Orientation, Camping Style

great places to sleep!

great places to sleep!

Okay, so orientation at a summer camp? Best idea, ever! For any (hopefully) future followers of my blog who don’t know, I just started my summer internship as a Career Discovery Intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Student Conservation Association. The program places students into intern positions at National Wildlife Refuges across the country, so that they can learn more about working in the USFWS in Biologist or Visitor Services positions. Region 5 of the country (basically, the upper northeast of the U.S.) had our orientation at the Forrestel Summer Camp in Medina, New York. It is a family owned camp that is largely used as a girls’ horseback-riding camp, but they allowed us to camp there for the week, and it was honestly the best camp I have ever stayed in. We lived in platform tents, right next to the horse paddock, where we could hear the horses run around at night. The food was amazing, as all of the hungry teenage interns will attest to–and most of the adults, too. We were a short drive from the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, and traveled there every day for training. There were lots of long lectures and presentations, but they were full of important information, and the mentors did their best to make training fun. In addition to the lectures, we also got to have a field bio training day, where we planted over a hundred trees in a 4-acre clearing, so that it will grow to become part of the forest again. It was a hot, muggy day, but you could see how much better the clearing looked after planting. I hope to come back at some point and see how the trees are doing. In addition to training, each intern was also paired with a mentor, an adult in the USFWS field who can guide us and help us through issues along with our supervisors. My mentor’s name is Kofi, a wonderful fisheries guru and overall great man. Kofi has traveled everywhere it seems, from Florida to Philadelphia (where I live) to Ithaca (where I go to school) and so much more. He worked with myself and his other mentees on a Challenge Project during the week about Marcellus Shale drilling, and he was such a great leader. He guided us to our decisions about the issue without interfering, and gave us useful information whenever we needed it. The final activity of the week was a trip up to Niagara Falls! Most of us had never seen the Falls before, so it was a great time. I took as many photos as I could, and attempted to use the Panorama setting on my camera to capture the entire Falls–it wasn’t as successful as I could have hoped. My orientation ended with a 6 hour drive back to Philadelphia with my supervisor, Mariana. We talked so much throughout the trip, I didn’t even notice the time pass! Mariana is such a great person and a great supervisor. She answered all of my questions–which is saying something, seeing as I never run out of questions. I already know that this is going to be an amazing summer, and I can’t wait to write my next post about the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge!

awesome trip! Niagara FallsNiagara FallsUniforms!!Horses! IMG_1254 IMG_1154 IMG_1159