Fur, Fin and Feather campers learned about the wetlands

Youth at Fur, Fin and Feather learned about the wetlands through hands-on exploration and participation in a game modeling population dynamics.

Youth at Fur, Fin and Feather camp explore wetlands.

Youth at Fur, Fin and Feather camp explore wetlands.

Fur, Fin and Feather recently took place in Presque Isle, Michigan, where youth learned about Michigan animals and habitats through a variety of hands-on activities. Fur, Fin and Feather is part of a rotation of four STEM camps held in Presque Isle, Michigan, in June. The camp is the results of a coordinated effort between Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, Presque Isle and Otsego counties and reaches 65 youth each year. Youth can attend camp for four years with each year having a different STEM theme. Last year (2014) was “Ready SET Go!” and next year is “Go Green!” The fourth theme is “4-H2O.”

This year, campers learned about the three main types of wetlands, marsh, swamp and bogs, before they explored the wetlands finding and recording evidence of a variety of wetland organisms from duck weed to dragonflies. Campers brainstormed wetland predators, predator-prey relationships and identified common carnivores, omnivores and herbivores found in the wetlands. They also learned about the parts of the littoral zones and were able to identify plants in each of the emergent, floating, submerged and near shore zones.

Campers participated in a game modeling a wetland food web and documented the dynamic population changes. Youth discovered when the number of plants, herbivores and carnivores were equal, the population of herbivores was quickly exhausted and the predators died. Each round of the game ended with a conversation about sustainable food webs and populations were adjusted to test new ideas. The campers played numerous rounds, changing the beginning population amounts until they reached the carrying capacity. At this point, they explored the need for decomposers to recycle the nutrients back into the soil so the plants could continue to survive and a sustainable food web was established.

You can help youth learn more about wetlands by visiting the Michigan DNR wetlands website. To learn more about engaging youth in the exploration of their world and increasing science literacy, explore the Michigan State University Extension Science and Technology website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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