Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Biology Bootcamp 2019

This July we held a Biology Bootcamp at the museum for 2nd-5th graders! The camp was a week long and we did it for 3 different weeks with 3 groups of kids. The kids were able to participate in lots of activities and have many hands-on experiences to learn all about different kinds of animals and plants! Each day had a different focus and we wrapped up our week with a trip to the zoo. We had a great time!!

The first day of Biology Bootcamp was a blast! Our focus on Monday was reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Our day started with some getting to know you activities, followed by a run down of the day, and the week.

We brought out a live frog and a lizard, and discussed as groups and as a class some of their similarities and differences, to help us establish what makes a reptile a reptile, and what makes an amphibian an amphibian. After this, we played games to test our knowledge, and then spent time focusing on turtles, lizards, snakes, frogs, and salamanders. We played games with M&Ms to learn about sea turtles, talked about salamander regeneration with a mad lib, looked at some frogs with amazing ability to camouflage, and even put a little bit of elmers glue on our hands to mimic a snake shedding its skin! On top of all that, we even got to see a live turtle, lizard, snake, frog, and even a salamander. We visited the museum’s wet collection, where we have a variety of reptiles and amphibians stored for research and study. 

After lunch, we began our discussion of birds! We talked about different characteristics birds share, and talked about different types of birds and what makes them so unique. We practiced bird watching with some our museums own exotic mounts, and had the students sketch pictures. We got a tour of the museum’s bird collection, where we store a wide variety of birds for research. Both the wet collection and bird collection require special permission to see and can't be seen by regular museum guests, so our kids got a behind the stage pass to be there! It was awesome. We made recycled birdhouses, and then the day was over.

It was such a fun day! The students got to know each other, laughed and learned about different animals, and even discussed ways we can help conserve some really amazing parts of nature.

On the second day of Biology Bootcamp we started the day by learning about mammals! We talked about what makes a mammal a mammal and played a matching game to learn about the different habitats mammals can live in. We then did a pelt activity where we felt and studied different mammal pelts and tried to guess which mammal each one belonged to. After that, we learned about some interesting features certain mammals have, such as marine mammals using blubber to keep warm. To demonstrate this we put our hands in “blubber bags” that were lined with shortening and then put our hands in ice water, one with the blubber bag and one without. The hand in the blubber bag stayed a lot warmer! We learned about echolocation next, which is what bats use to hunt. They emit soundwaves and can tell the location of an object based on how those soundwaves are reflected. We went outside and played a type of tag game to better understand how it works! Two blindfolded kids would make the sound their teams had decided on and would listen for their teammates to echo it back so they could find them. To wrap up our mammal section we did a scavenger hunt throughout the museum that gave us clues to help us guess what mammal we were supposed to find. We found the smallest mammal in the museum (the Preble’s shrew), the only flying mammal (the bat), a mammal with an excellent sense of smell that hibernates (the grizzly bear), and many more!

We then had the awesome opportunity to tour another one of the museum’s collections, the mammal collection. We saw some skulls, pelts, and many cabinets full of mammals that the public doesn’t usually get to see!  

That afternoon we switched topics and learned about fish. We talked about what makes a fish a fish and learned about the different body shapes fish can have. We did a fishing booth activity where the kids caught paper fish with their yardstick fishing pole and had to figure out which body shape it had and put it in the correct group. We also learned about the different fins a fish has and their functions by playing “pin the fin on the fish”! To cement everything we learned about fish body parts and shapes, each group was then given the task to create their own fish. Every member of the group was given a part of the fish to build which they would then put together. We saw some very creative and clever fish! To finish off day 2, we did some stations to learn about how different fish eat. Fish with superior mouths eat food off the surface of the water. To imitate this we ate donuts dangling from strings without using our hands! Fish with inferior mouths eat things along the ocean floor, and for this we put vaseline on our noses and raced to see who could get the most cotton balls from one bowl to another! We used straws to see how many M&Ms we could get into a cup to demonstrate how jawless fish eat, and finally, we held spoons in our mouths to scoop up objects and raced to transfer them from one table to another to see how fish with elongated mouths eat. It was a fun day! 

On our third day of Biology Bootcamp we learned about plants! We started off by talking about what makes plants different from everything else and the different parts they have. Each kid received their own plant, and were able to dissect it and put each part in the correct box on their paper. Next we learned about leaf types. First we discussed the different shapes, margins, and venation that leaves have, and then played Leaf Type Bingo to help bring together all the information they learned. Each child had a bingo sheet, and ran around outside, and once they found the right leaf, they made a leaf rubbing on their bingo paper. After leaves, we talked about flowers. The kids learned about the different flower parts and functions by dissecting a lily. Once they understood the parts of a flower, we discussed pollination. They learned that pollination occurs when the pollen from one flower gets stuck to the pistil of a different flower usually by an animal. After talking about pollination, we played a matching game where we matched the animal to the correct flower it pollinates. The last part of plant reproduction we talked about was fruit. The kids learned that fruits come from flowers. We looked at several pictures of fruit and then the flower that it came from. We showed pictures of grapes and raspberries, and had the kids draw what they thought the flowers looked like while they snacked on grapes and raspberries. When the kids finished eating their fruit, we went for a walk around campus to try and identify trees using a Dichotomous Key. We looked at the leaves of the tree, and by using the knowledge they learned earlier in the morning, the kids were able to identify the trees. After looking at five trees, we headed back to the museum for lunch.


On Thursday, we studied the differences between insects and other invertebrates. Using microscopes, models, and a live tarantula and cockroach, we examined the characteristics of these invertebrates. We then focused on ants, learning about how they communicate through smell instead of sound, playing a fun silent relay race Easter egg hunt to demonstrate. Next we studied bees and other pollinators, and each student decorated their own bee hotel to bring home. There will be a lot of happy bees in months to come. Finally, after visiting the Bean Museum's collection of almost 2 million insects and other invertebrate specimens, we went on a field trip to Bicentennial Park to catch our very own insects that we sketched, labeled, and released. The day was finished with a popsicle and a short play on the playground.

The final day of Biology Bootcamp was spent at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City! The kids had a great time seeing all the animals, including many they had learned about throughout the week. We even got to see an incredible bird show. All in all Biology Bootcamp was a great success! We learned a lot about the living things on our amazing planet and we had a lot of fun in the process!