School may be out for summer, but that doesn’t mean science education takes a break. The Kenai Watershed Forum’s annual summer camp gets underway June 11th.
The theme this year is Wilderness, Wildlife and Wonder. Joseph Robertia is the Watershed Forum’s summer camp director. He says mixing games with natural observations is a good way to help kids understand larger concepts, like animal migration patterns and how human development like roads and buildings can affect them.
“If you have a game like dodgeball but then you lay out a grid where you’re a frog or you’re a salamander trying to get from where you live to where you need to go breed in a pond. Now there’s a road, so we have kids throwing balls as roads. But then as more subdivisions and roads go in, we introduce more kids throwing balls and so it gets harder and harder for them to cross the road. So it’s a really great way for them to have fun, but then also really understand that concept of how hard it is for some of these species to do what they need to do in order to survive.”
The sessions are broken down by age. The young group, ages 6-9 will spend time on science and biology fundamentals, and it picks up from there.
“So that middle age group, we might go into a little bit more of the research. So when we go on a field foray to try to catch tadpoles or amphibians, they can be in the field and they can see these principles that we’re talking about, they’ll be filling out a real data sheet. There are a lot of wood frog surveys that happen in our state through UAA and ADF&G. We’re going to download those forms and they’re going to see exactly how to fill out that information and we’ll talk about how it’s used, so they’re getting a little bit more of the scientific principles.”
Of course, this is salmon country and so there are lots of opportunities to talk about fish and fish habitat, but Robertia says he wants the sessions to go beyond that. Simple observations of everyday animals, like birds, will play a big part in his summer lessons.
“This isn’t like learning about salmon that we see seasonally or bears that you maybe see a couple times year. Birds are something they’re going to see when they walk to the car in the morning, when they’re out on the playground. They’re going to see these species and be able to understand them and recognize what they’re seeing. I think that’s a really important thing to give them. And that’s something they’ll take through life. I don’t want to just teach them these scientific concepts. I really want to inspire them to have that sense of appreciation for what we have here and what’s around us and for nature in general.”
Spaces are still available for the watershed forum’s summer camps, and you can register here.