Summer Camp

All posts tagged Summer Camp

By Brenna Goggin: Environmental Advocate

Monday, August 8th started out like every other day. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and summer campers were arriving to tackle all of the state’s environmental issues, or at least try. The first day campers learned how the legislative process works, listened to School House Rock (“I’m just a bill…), and debated their first piece of legislation.

Day two started out with a long drive down to Lewes to learn about wind energy and tour the University of Delaware’s 2-megawatt wind turbine. Did you know that this wind turbine produces enough power to meet all of UD’s Lewes campus energy needs and powers about 120 homes in the area?  Since some of our campers received letters from their constituents (they were elected officials after all!), they had several questions regarding the dangers wind turbines pose  to birds and bats, the cleanliness of wind energy, and how it compares to other energy sources like fossil fuels. Graduate student Blaise Sheridan walked the campers right up to the turbine to explain how the energy travels from the turbine to the power station. Blaise and Chris Petrone also took us through a kite exercise to show how the wind currents are stronger and therefore can produce more energy the higher up they are.

Conservation Action Force campers walk towards the University of Delaware Wind Turbine near Lewes.

Day three and four were spent learning about climate change, the food cycle, and sustainable agricultural products. The campers went through several hands-on activities to learn about the greenhouse effect, the importance of even small creatures in the circle of life, and how to build your own sustainable, eco-friendly farm. Ideas ranged from raising yaks to dinosaurs, but the main task of the day was to control the waste, runoff, and other environmental side effects of farming in a safe and economical way.

Finally, we traveled to the Delaware state capitol to bring our issues to the attention of people with power! Campers toured Legislative Hall, met with Senator Bushweller to discuss some of their environmental concerns, and learned the history of the first state. In the afternoon, the camp made a presentation to Deputy DNREC Secretary Dave Small where their issues and concerns were voiced. 

The grand finale of the camp was to take action for the environment and speak to legislators at the Delaware State Capital.

In the end, the Conservation Action Force campers learned current environmental issues through hands-on activities, and gained experience with effectively voicing their concerns.  In this way, environmental education comes full circle.

If you have a conservationist in the making at home, consider this camp in 2012!

By Sally O’Byrne:  Teacher Naturalist and Board Member of the Delaware Nature Society and Hawk Mt. Sanctuary

In the last week of the DNS summer camp calendar, I took a group of kids, aged 11-15 to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, on the Kittatinny Ridge of the Appalachians.  It was the first week of their fall raptor migration count, so we hiked to the North Lookout to look for migrating birds, met some of the resident raptors used for education, and helped in a major conservation activity – building an erosion control check on a trail.  We also met with Keith Bildstein the Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science, who was just back from the Falkland Islands where he studied the Striated Caracara, and we were treated to a personal presentation of this ‘cutting edge’ research.

Here we are on our hike to the North Lookout.

We stayed in Adirondack Shelters for three nights and cooked our meals at a stone fireplace.  All water was hauled to the site – with the rocky soil on the path, we appreciated the need to repair the trail.

Here is the Adirondack Shelter where we made camp at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

On the last morning, we took a different trail to the North Lookout where we found historic shotgun shell remnants from the days that raptors were shot by the hundreds from the mountaintop.  When we got to the top in early morning, we were greeted by a juvenile turkey vulture – a fitting end to a great week.

Here we are working on rebuiding a trail for Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

This is a popular camp for 11 to 15 year olds that fills up every year.  Keep this one in mind if you know a child of this age who might enjoy this kind of experience next year. 

At the end of the week, we had observed lots of raptors, talked with scientists, enjoyed camping on the mountain, and contributed to the organization through a conservation project. Several of our campers this year were repeats from last year.

By Sally O’Byrne, Teacher Naturalist

In early August, Delaware Nature Society had a week long camp for 9 – 12 year olds called Kayak Fun and Games.  We spent the first two days getting acquainted with each other and with our kayaks at Lums Pond and the Octoraro Reservoir.  We practiced kayaking backwards and in circles and playing squirt gun tag.  We got good enough to do a synchronized kayak ballet going around bridge supports, which unfortunately I did not video for YouTube fame.

On Wednesday, storms were threatening, but we made it to Dragon Run, near Delaware City to explore an impounded fresh water marsh.  We blazed our way through the vegetation near the end and discovered a fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata), which I have never seen there in the past.

Kayaking Dragon Run near Delaware City.


Fragrant Water Lily at Dragon Run.

Fearful that the predicted storms would create flooded conditions on the Brandywine Creek the next day, we went to a private farm on the Chesapeake instead.   We kayaked around the point at Veasey Cove to a cliff on the Elk River, where we discovered  colored clay that could be hand dug.  The kids created all sorts of creatures and became all sorts of creatures after painting themselves with the clay!

Clay cliff along the Elk River, MD.

Coming back to the sandy beach in Veasey Cove, we found this amazing caterpillar, (which I am trying to ID – can’t find it in my book, so have sent off to an entomologist friend) as well as many bald eagles.  We had two mature eagles in a tree and three flying overhead at the same time.

To Sally...From Joe: The caterpillar is a Hickory Horned Devil which turns into a Royal Walnut Moth.

Our last day was spent on the tidal Christina River.  We paddled against the tide for 1 & 1/2 hours and then spent far less time being carried back with the tidal flow.  This part of the Christina is a secret treasure.  As we kayaked through a wilderness with nesting barn swallows, turtles, wild rice and spatterdock, and with Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies flying around us, we heard the sounds of ice cream trucks and civilization beyond the trees.  It was a nice reminder of what can be found in our own back yards.

Christina River Kayaking.

By John Harrod, Manager, DuPont Environmental Education Center

Over the summer and last weekend at WildFest, Blue Crabs were caught in the DuPont Environmental Education Center’s freshwater tidal pond. Most visitors were surprised to find crabs here since they are usually associated with brackish (slightly salty) and salt water along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

An excited summer camper with a Blue Crab. Photo by John Harrod.

  Blue crabs can live in fresh water. To find out the salinity content of our pond, I borrowed a refractometer from the Delaware Nature Society’s technical monitoring program. The pond registered a salinity reading of 0 parts per million (ocean water is 32+ ppm).

Pete Zeigler demonstrating use of a hand refractometer. Photo by John Harrod.

 Growing up to 9 inches, this crustacean is an opportunistic bottom-dwelling predator that feeds on anything it can find including live and dead fish, clams, snails, and detritus (decayed organic matter).

A recent catch at WildFest that could grow up to 9 inches. Photo by Laura Orth.

 This predator is also prey of wildlife including eel, striped bass, other blue crabs and catfish. As its scientific name – Callinectes sapidus – indicates, people enjoy them too. It translates, “beautiful swimmer that is savory.”

 To learn more about DNS technical monitoring program visit here.