Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Youth Explore Nature at VMNH Camps

The Virginia Museum of Natural History provided a variety of programs for the MHC After 3 summer camps throughout the month of July. Groups of middle schoolers from seven sites each participated in both indoor and outdoor programs led by museum educators. In the classroom, Glenda Hairston led the groups through hands-on science experiments and machine building in the "Science Plus" and "Robotics" camps. Robin Jensen brought the groups outdoors to Fairy Stone State Park and the Richard P. Gravely Nature Preserve for the "Wet and Wild" and "Forest Explorers" camps.

Wet and Wild- This camp was all about the water! On the first day, students learned the importance of water conservation, they used water quality testing kits to monitor a stream, and they finished up by searching for aquatic macro invertebrates (this was the most popular activity of the day!). On the second day, the group paddled around on Lake Fairy Stone. While practicing their canoeing skills, everyone learned the history of the lake, what used to be there before the dam, and the lake's connection to our watershed. On the final day of the camp, the students visited the Richard P. Gravely, Jr. Nature Preserve and hiked the new Rhododendron trail. At the end of the trail, the kids enjoyed the view and sounds of the Smith River while creating their own nature-inspired artwork.

Forest Explorers- While hiking at the Gravely Nature Preserve and at Fairy Stone State Park, the students in this camp learned all about the forest surrounding them. They explored the variety of life that depends on the trees, and they each "became a tree" to learn about succession and what trees need to survive. They also created their own "tree cookies" to represent their own life story. The groups were also introduced to GPS (Global Positioning System) while out in the woods. They were members of a Search and Rescue team that used GPS units to find pretend lost hikers, and they also participated in a geocaching hunt. All of the kids were also encouraged to increase their awareness of the forest, by looking and listening closely. The most common sound the students asked about was the loud buzzing of the cicadas which were very active on the warm July mornings!

Article and Photos provided by Robin Jensen, VMNH

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