Thursday, July 11, 2019

Junior Naturalist Summer Camp

This past June, thirteen kids were able to join us for our first and only week of Junior Naturalists camp. These budding scientists had a great time learning a little about wildlife biology and how our museum works behind the scenes.

The first day was spent collecting specimens. Our campers learned techniques for catching and collecting plants and insects. They were instructed to look for five different insect species and four different plant species at each of the sites we visited, including Aspen Grove, Lower Hobble Creek, and the Provo Airport runoff zone. The campers took to this with great enthusiasm, and most exceeded this requirement. They caught a wide range of invertebrate specimens, such as butterflies, moths, bees, earwigs, spiders, millipedes, beetles, and flies. They certainly proved that there are many interesting and unique plants and animals that live under our very noses, and all we have to do to enjoy them is look.

The second day was spent back at the museum. This was certainly welcome as it meant we didn’t have to brave the harsh summer sun again, but it also meant that we got to explore the little-seen collections of our museum, experiencing tens of thousands of vertebrates, hundreds of thousands of plants, and the insect collection exceeding a million specimens that we house here. Campers also learned how to process and display their own specimens, pinning their insects with labels, and pressing their plants to be artfully displayed.

Finally, the last day here at the museum was after a one-day hiatus during which campers did some research on the specimens they had collected. After preparing some wonderful tri-fold displays with lots of color and information, they got to try their hand at teaching museum guests about the cool organisms that they had gathered and displayed. You could really see the pride and excitement many of them felt about sharing their collections, and certainly some of these kids have a bright future in teaching or public speaking.

All in all, Junior Naturalists camp left us feeling sad that we only were able to spend one week with these amazing kids. We were able to learn so much in such a short amount of time, and we were able to get some experiences here at the museum that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. We are looking forward to next year!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Critter Camp (Week 3) - Air

During our final week of Critter Camp, we looked to the skies as we learned about air critters! 

Our first day was spent at the museum learning about all the exciting creatures that navigate the air. Our friend, Belle the tarantula, helped us discuss ballooning in spiders and caterpillars--although she is too big, we learned that many other spiders can float through the air  on strands of silk.

Next, with the help of nature videos, we travelled to Indonesia to watch flying snakes and Draco lizards glide between the treetops. The Critter Camp explorers put gliding into practice with helicoptering maple seeds and their very own paper airplanes.

Finally, we learned about animals that use true flight to move. The campers learned about echolocation with a special game of Bat Tag, had an up-close look at exoskeletons and wings by examining insect specimens under a microscope, and handled real bird wings and feathers. All of us practiced flapping our “wings” to see if we could move as fast as flying animals--crow wingbeats weren’t so hard to keep up with, but hummingbirds and house flies were faster than any of us!

Our second day was spent exploring nature! We went to Hobble Creek where we saw dozens of air critters including birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. Our next stop was a trail near the Provo Airport Dike, where we found even more animals and even some floating seeds. Although it wasn’t a plant or animal, we were also excited to be there just in time to watch an airplane taking off. 

After our hikes, the campers used a spotting scope to catch a glimpse of an osprey nest, and then played the rest of their wiggles out at Bicentennial Park. 

Our day ended with a special surprise! The Raptor Rehabilitation Center visited with several birds of prey and gave a great presentation. The campers were even able to touch a live owl! We are so grateful to the Raptor Center for teaching us all about their amazing birds.

We were sad to say goodbye to all our campers, but had a blast this year! Thanks so much to everyone who helped and to all the participating campers and their families. We can’t wait for next summer!