Wow does time fly when you are having fun! This weeks theme at camp was ‘Plants with a Purpose’ and both staff and campers had a ton of fun discovering new things through our magnifying glasses and exploring outside. Each day campers got creative with oodles of crafts and played nature-related games that they really took a ‘lichen’ too!

Plants provide us with the air we breathe and the food we eat – they are vital to our existence. On our daily nature walks we found ourselves discussing the relationship between bugs and flowers, covering important topics like pollination and photosynthesis. We experimented to learn how plants pull water up from their roots and release it through their leaves by putting a bag around a leafy branch of a tree and watching how over time water begins to collect in the bag. Crossing paths with wild ginger root (and a side of blueberries), one day the group decided to pick the ginger and make some natural ginger tea. Walks were filled with sing-along songs, balancing on logs, looking at ant colonies and telling fun stories about different trees. In the forest we had an awesome scavenger hunt, finding lots of cool plants, mushrooms and lichen along the way. From beautiful purple fireweed flowers to gross slime mould, we saw how nature works together to sustain a healthy ecosystem. We also got to see the xylem (tubes of the plant) on a dogwood leaf by pulling the leaf apart gently.

Campers got the chance to see first hand the defence mechanisms of a tree and other plants from popping pods of sap that bugs get stuck, to checking out the thorns some plants grow to protect themselves. A camper favourite this week was creating houses for an animals of their choosing out of anything they could find on the forest floor

It’s always time to horse around at Nature Camp, campers adored playing bear, salmon, mosquito a game derived from rock paper scissors that highlights the food web. The kids also had a blast pretending to be animals, playing meet my friend, camouflage, 2 truths 1 lie and the blindfold direction game to name a few.

When the sky is the limit you really get to see each and every camper’s creative juices flowing! Many of the kids created and put together their very own nature journals to document all the neat things they saw.


 

Did you know that bugs make up 90% of all living creatures on earth! It’s hard to imagine a world without insects as they pollinate many of our fruits and vegetables as well as provide us with products like fine silk and ooey gooey honey! On top of all of this they are essential decomposers, we can thank bugs for eating lots of dead plants and animals that would otherwise build up in our environment.

This week at Whistler Nature Camp we lifted up logs and turned over rocks hunting for creepy crawlies! Campers became scientists as they fabricated their own pooters, a device used for sucking up bugs safely to collect. We also set up pitfall traps: to set this up they dug a small hole in the ground and put in a cup that has peanut butter and other greenery inside of it to attract bugs. The kids adored creating habitats for their little creatures while being mindful of what their insect needed to survive. We even began construction of our own insect hotel, coming soon with pinecone patio and twiggy parlour!

Campers discovered the differences between spiders and insects by counting body parts and learning key characteristics. While learning about insect life cycles we learned that spiders detect vibration with sensory hairs on their legs – which usually leads to a tasty meal! Campers took turns closing their eyes and holding 8 strings to see if they could tell which direction the rest of the group was pulling from. We even got crafty making our own bugs/spiders using egg cartons to distinguish the head from the stomach and/or chest.


 

We had a blast splashing into our theme ‘Aquatic Adventures’ this week! We learned a ton about wetlands and water creatures! All of the campers were especially enthusiastic about metamorphose as many critters spend a portion of their lives underwater, for example pesky mosquitos and majestic dragonflies! Some aquatic insects grow by shedding their outer protective skeleton to grow a larger one, a few campers found the old shells while searching for aquatic bugs.

We used nets and our homemade viewfinders to collect and examine our aquatic catches of the week. To examine the aquatic insects better, campers would separate the insects individually in an ice cube tray. They then used a flow chart to identify the species based on traits such as length, number of tails and number of legs. Some of the species we found include: Mayfly larva, stonefly larva, tadpoles, midges and even a leech! On muddy walks in the swamps we balanced on logs while observing aquatic plants. There were many aquatic plants that grew from the soil up through the water like cat tails and skunk cabbage who both love having wet roots.

We ‘shore’ did get crafty this week! Our highlight was building our own boats out of sticks and other supplies found on our nature walk, we had buckets of fun playing with our boats afterwards. We also made pine cone aquatic critters,  imaginary friends out of rocks and created wetland habitats/aquariums out of salad containers! As always, we played oodles of fun games! In the forest we played follow the leader, Simon says, charades, telephone and meet the tree! All in all this week was a splashing success and a boat load of fun.


 

Predator and prey are both essential in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Predators help control the population of grazing animals and they are also key in the process of natural selection, which drives evolution. Animals and plants evolved to have various defence mechanisms to protect them from predators. On our nature walks we took note of trees that use sap as a sticky defence against bugs and we checked out the stripes on a chipmunk  which help it camouflage from predatory birds.

This week at Nature Camp we tip-toed and pounced along trails discovering the world of Stealth & Camouflage. Campers had fun playing Fire Tenders where one camper is blind folded protecting the treasure beneath their feet by listening for sounds and pointing at their opponent who is trying to be super stealthy and steal the treasure. This game is great to show campers how important hearing and stealth movements are for the survival of many animals.  Wolves use howls as a way to keep the pack together as they can become separated while searching for food.
To demonstrate how pack animals stay together we played the game Sound Mates where blindfolded pairs try to find each other in a large group by calling out a sound they agreed upon before hand.

As always we had tons of fun crafting this week! Some crafts included making our own paper plate bird nests using twigs and moss we found on our nature walk, creating snake/caterpillars out of paper chains, crafting habitats in paper bags for felt creatures and creating our own tic-tac-toe game pieces by painting rocks and then making a board to play on!

We also saw a couple of pretty cool creatures this week. On two different nature walks we spotted an owl! We feel pretty lucky to have encountered this night dwelling creature and were mesmerized by it’s huge wing span. One day we also made good friends with Mr. Garter Snake who even let a few of the campers hold him for closer inspection.


 

This week of camp aligned beautifully with the Western Toad Migration at Lost Lake. Every year between late July and early August tens of thousands of tiny toadlets make their first large journey from the lake into the surrounding forests. The toadlets are extremely vulnerable during their migration to predators due to their tiny size. Many volunteers and environmental technicians work to keep toads from being stepped on during this time. Campers were first in line to volunteer to help the toads migrate! They used cups to collect the toads and wore a rubber glove to protect the toads from the oils on our skin that can interfere with their breathing as toads breathe partially through their skins.

A well loved game this week was ‘Meet a Tree’ where one blindfolded partner is lead to a tree to smell it, touch it, and perhaps even give it a hug – then afterwards they have to try and guess which tree they were brought too! This game can get really tricky especially if you’ve been spun around a couple times and have lost all your sense of direction! In a game called ‘Meet my Friend’ campers find an imaginary friend then make a habitat for them in the forest, some campers even made little beds and furniture for their friends

We also had a great time playing follow the leader on our nature walks, campers turned into gymnasts as they balanced on logs and jumped from stumps.

On our Nature Walks we saw some neat plants! One of our favourites this week was pineapple weed due to it’s delicious pineapple fragrance. Another cool plant the campers liked was the common Muelin which is known as Natures toilet paper since it has incredibly soft leaves! Another fun fact about the common Muelin is that when dead they used to be dipped in oil then used as a torch.

The campers went full out with crafts this week! A number of  beautiful Nature Journals were created and some campers decided to glue/tape on some cool finds they collected on the Nature Walk! Other campers decided to make themed Nature Journals, a very popular theme this week was River Otters! Campers also created some very intricate habitats made out of cardboard, felt and whatever else they could find! The final results were magnificent, it’s truly great seeing Campers imaginations run wild!


 

This weeks theme at camp was Things with Wings! From birds to bats to bugs, there are many Whistler creatures with wings! Migratory birds help remind us how interconnected our world truly is. Birds can travel incredible distances – anywhere from 25 to 1000 km in a day! They migrate out of necessity otherwise their food supply would rapidly deplete and nesting competition would become too high.  A fun fact campers loved about birds is that the feather shafts are made out of keratin the same material our nails are made of!

Campers used binoculars on our forest walks to examine birds and bird habitats more closely. We found rectangular holes in trees carved by Pileated Woodpeckers while hunting. It’s incredible to see such architecture by creatures without power tools or even opposable thumbs!

This week we had bird skull replicas to learn from. Each beak is very specialized and it can give us clues to determine what the bird may eat or how it might construct a home. Many campers were successful at guessing which bird the skull was from. Hikes were filled with many “caws” and “chk-a-dee-dee-dee” from both campers and birds! Birds use calls and sounds to attract other mates and lets you know where it is. Learning bird calls can be super fun and a great way to identify which birds are around without seeing them.

During arts and crafts we had the chance to make our very own cedar birdhouses! Campers worked hard constructing and painting them all sorts of fun colours in order to attract some lucky little birdies.  This week there were many paper plate nests created as well. Campers pretended to be birds as they scavenged around the forest for suitable materials to make their nest with. We experienced first-hand how incredibly difficult it must be for a little bird to collect, carry, mould, and weave such materials.


 

Did you know that trees are the longest living organism on Earth and that they never die of old age! Trees provide food and habitat for animals, absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen for us to breathe. Some of the animals we saw that live in trees include squirrels, chipmunks and wood peckers. This weeks theme was ‘Friendly Forests’ and how appropriate – considering all the benefits we receive from trees.

Campers enjoyed learning how fungus and trees are interconnected. We did a fun activity where campers took on different roles: mama tree, baby tree, mushroom, and mushroom picker. The kids would act out the process of the mama tree helping the baby tree grow by using the mushroom roots to send along tasty sap. After practicing these skits the campers were keen to point out any and all mushrooms growing along our forest walks. Campers learnt that mushrooms are only the fruiting body of the fungus, similar to how apples are the only fruiting body of the whole apple tree.

On our nature walks we stopped to tell stories about the Douglas Fir and Hemlock tree. The stories are a fun way for the campers to learn how to identify different types of trees! Their favourite is identifying the Douglas Fir by its cone. They recognize this one in particular from the ‘mouse tails and back legs’ sticking out (when the Douglas Fir helped save the mice from the forest fire).

The pirate ship was our favourite place to hang out this week and it was made from material from our branchy friends. We sailed the green sea and pretended to be pirates. It was fun making pretend teepee ‘fires’ in the cabin for our cook to make meals on, finding stolen treasure and walking the plank. The pirate ship is also a prime bug hunting area as insects are a fast find in fallen trees. It was super fun adding new parts to the pirate ship, this week we made additions to the ceiling and made our very own nature camp flag!

 

THANKS TO ALL CAMPERS THAT MADE WHISTLER NATURE CAMP 2017 SO AWESOME! WE HOPE TO SEE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU NEXT YEAR.

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We would like to give special thanks to all our sponsors and funders that made running Whistler Nature Camp possible!