Archive for February 18th, 2013

February 18, 2013

Having a Desert Ed-Venture

by Melissa Harding

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Exploring the desert can be hard work; the heat, wind and oppressive sun can stymie even the most stalwart adventures. Luckily for our campers, we only traveled to the desert room of the Conservatory. In our most recent Ed-Venture, Deserts and Desserts, campers learned about the special adaptations that desert plants use to survive in such harsh conditions through art projects, games and exploration.

Of course, before exploring an area, it is always important to learn more about it. Campers learned that deserts only get up to ten inches of rain a year. They also learned that deserts are not abandoned waste lands, but are teeming with plants and animals; each of these is specially adapted to the desert. While animals can move around to elements, plants are unable to do so and must be adapted in different ways than animals. Campers created their very own super plants using sand-filled paints, painting wildly creative organisms that could surely survive any climate. Each camper then shared her creation with the class, pointing out the adaptations she added to her painting. One plant even came with its own ice cream machine!

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To learn how their creations matched up to real desert plants, campers went on a scavenger hunt in the Conservatory. They were able to see that while real plants don’t have ice cream makers, they do make their own food. In the same way, while a plant may not actually have a sword to fight off predators, many desert plants have spines that serve a similar purpose. Through this fun activity, campers learned that the green parts of the plants are the parts that make food, spines are really leaves and that waxy leaves keep plants from losing water.

After all of this exploring, campers were getting hungry. They went back to the classroom to make their desert-themed desserts, yogurt parfaits and chocolate fruit desserts. To make the parfaits, campers crumbled graham crackers over a bowl of yogurt. They then placed green grapes and pomegranate arils on the surface to create a desert scene. These were a big hit; no one could get enough grapes! Campers also made chocolate fruit desserts by halving a banana down the middle and placing chocolate chips in the middle like a sandwich. They then wrapped them in foil and placed them on the griddle to melt the chocolate.

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While they waited for their bananas to cook, campers planted succulent gardens to take home. They mixed sand and soil in pots and everyone chose several plants for their garden. After they planted and watered their choices, they topped their pots with colored pebbles to both keep the plants in place and make their gardens look finished. By this time, the chocolate was melted on the bananas; campers all ate their treats right out of the foil! Everyone went home with full bellies and beautiful gardens!

If program sounds fun, check out our next Evening Ed-Venture, Creepy Night Crawlers; in this exciting program, campers learn all about the nocturnal creatures that call the Conservatory their home. To register, contact Sarah Bertovich at 412/441-4442 etx. 3925.

Check out some more pictures in the slide show below!

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The above pictures were all taken by our wonderful volunteer, Pam Russell.

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