environmental science summer camp
The purpose of the Kammerer Middle School Summer Camp was to give incoming 7th Grade students the opportunity to participate in engaging, hands-on educational activities that they missed out on due to the pandemic. For the STEM component of the camp, students participated in NGSS-based environmental education lessons along with traditional summer camp activities, such as arts and crafts and outdoor education games.
Environmental Science Summer Camp Overview
The purpose of the Kammerer Middle School Summer Camp was to give incoming 7th Grade students the opportunity to participate in engaging, hands-on educational activities that they missed out on during Non-Traditional Learning (NTI) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students participated in non-traditional activities in each core subject area. Because students missed out on outdoor and experiential learning during virtual learning, I developed Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based environmental education lessons that taught about ecosystem interactions and highlighted the importance of biodiversity. As a former Program Manager for a summer camp, I know the importance of creativity and play and included traditional summer camp activities, such as arts and crafts (designing bird feeders and bird houses) and outdoor games (Predator and Prey and a Nature Scavenger Hunt).
Conducting Biodiversity Surveys and Quadrat Sampling
Students conducted a biodiversity survey to collect data about the number of plant, animal, and fungi species living on the school campus at Kammerer Middle School in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving outside, students reviewed and discussed what they had learned previously about habitats, ecosystems, food webs, taxonomy, and biodiversity. They then learned the quadrat sampling method and how to use field guides, keys, and smartphone identification apps to identify organisms as close to the species level as possible. Students were provided with a variety of tools with which to conduct their surveys including a quadrat square, hand lenses, binoculars, field guides, and data sheets to record organisms identified. At the end of the survey, data from each group was compiled to create a master list of species identified on the school campus. Students were excited to "be real scientists" and loved examining the details of organism features while attempting to correctly identify species. Some commented that they had never before taken the time to look so closely at nature.
Creating Mini Pollinator Container Gardens
Discussions of habitats and ecosystem interactions were continued with this mini pollinator container garden project. Because summer camp lasted only a week, planting an entire garden was not realistic. However, there were many empty or overgrown planters around campus that needed some attention. Students discussed which organisms are pollinators, the importance of pollinators in ecosystems, and the ecosystem services that they provide for humans. The needs of pollinators were then discussed. Students learned that the native plants that pollinators need for food, shelter, and laying eggs are often missing in urban environments, but could be provided by pollinator gardens. Students researched native plants for pollinators and selected plants to use in their mini gardens. Locally grown native plants were donated by nearby Paul's Fruit Market for the project. Students loved planting their mini pollinator container gardens and watering and caring for them throughout the week. They were thrilled when they started attracting butterflies and bees and were proud of their hard work that beautified the school grounds.
Providing Shelter and Food for Birds
Students tapped into their creativity by making bird feeders and birdhouses to hang around campus. Not only were these arts and crafts activities traditional summer camp fun, but they provided the chance for students to discuss what organisms need to survive in their habitat. Students learned about human impacts on urban environments and ways to support wildlife in their own backyards.
Students were provided a variety of materials with which to make their bird feeders. They also had the chance to create their own birdhouse by cutting a hole in a gourd and decorating it any way they chose. They could take it home and hang it in their yard, or select a tree on the school campus from which to hang it.