During opening circle last Monday for Marine Biology Camp, when prompted to state one interesting fact about yourself one young man set the tone for a wonderful week when he said, “my name is Cort and I like to stay positive,”. Again and again we counselors were impressed by the enthusiasm, intelligence, joy, and humor that the 32 nine to thirteen year olds demonstrated throughout the week.
We started off learning about invertebrates, visiting the Marine Exhibit, and fish printing their camp shirts. Although they struggled to pronounce “Echinodermata” during invertebrate class, many of the campers were excited about exploring the touch tanks. Real fish were used to print colorful patterns on their shirts and many of the campers produced their own unique design.
Tuesday the kids arrived energetic and ready for a day in the tide pools. We bundled up against the fog and explored the intertidal area near Point Wilson. The campers braved the slippery algae covered rocks to reach the lower intertidal, home to numerous invertebrates and fishes. Exciting discoveries included a hairy helmet crab, umbrella crabs, numerous sea cucumbers, big red rock crabs, brittle stars, gunnels, cling fish, and more. Although after lunch Plastics class was not a favorite, the lesson clearly hit home as the campers combed the beach to find trash. The most diligent embarked on a “nurdle hunt” in which they searched through the upper layer of sand and plants looking for tiny plastic beads that are melted down to make plastic.
On Wednesday morning the signs of a busy tiring two days were beginning to show which meant we counselors were doing our job! This day was a favorite for many campers and staff alike. In the morning we split into two groups and half of the students returned to the marine exhibit to learn about, and sketch fish, while the other half peered into microscopes to study and learn about plankton. Afterwards the two groups switched. Amber’s fish talk had many of the kids in peals of laughter and numerous individuals cited the plankton class as their favorite learning activity of the week. In the afternoon we set out to build a whale to scale! After a vote the Orca won by a large margin over other local whales. Various teams such as artists, water collectors, and sand collectors began the task of constructing the 25 foot marine mammal. After a hectic start many of the workers formed a group which involved a dedicated team of diggers, an eight person line of bucket passers and bucket dumpers, and a small group of sand squishers, shapers, and smoothers. It was a truly exciting sight to watch the 32 kids work in an organized team. In the end they produced a marvelous sand whale with a surprising likeness to a real orca!
Thursday involved a bit of travel on the public bus system with all of the campers. Although we filled every seat on the bus the transit went smoothly and we were delivered to the tide flats near the boat yard. The morning was foggy and the tide flats stretched out ahead of us at low tide full of promise. There we set up four stations: one for journaling, the next for checking out animals caught in a seine net, the third for digging up worms, and lastly a station for digging clams. Although all of the animal oriented stations were popular, the clam digging station stole the show. The record for clams unearthed in one 20 minute rotation was 36!
We culminated Marine Biology camp on Friday with a Marine Birds class as well as a Fish Dissection class. Both classes were popular albeit the herring dissection was not popular with everyone. In the afternoon we unleashed the 150 foot long seine net and examined (in a large plastic pool!) the variety of fish and invertebrates we caught. Although small Dungeness crabs, surf perch, and soles dominated the sample, more unique finds included juvenile salmon, buffalo sculpin, various gunnels, and silver spotted sculpin.
Overall Marine Biology camp was a phenomenal mix of learning and fun. Many campers and parents expressed how much they loved the camp. First timers and repeat campers alike were already making plans to come back next year. Dates are currently being worked out for next year so keep an eye out on our Facebook page and website for more information!