Archive for March 19th, 2013

March 19, 2013

Night Crawlers: An Creepy Ed-Venture

by Melissa Harding


Nocturnal creatures are mysterious; they live a secretive life, busily working while we are all fast asleep. Some creatures, like owls and moths, are cute enough to have a good reputation. Others, like cockroaches and slugs, are not. In fact, you could call them…creepy. Not to fear, Phipps to the rescue! During the latest Ed-Venture, Creepy Night Crawlers, campers discovered that these night-time critters aren’t creepy at all, just misunderstood. Campers learned why nocturnal creatures come out at light, why many of these critters are beneficial, and how some can even make their own light!

To start off, campers learned that nocturnal creatures are awake at night because being nocturnal helps them to find food and hide from predators. Besides insects, there are many different mammals, birds and even reptiles that are awake at night! Campers observed that nocturnal animals have bodies that are adapted to being awake at night, such as an owl’s big eyes or a raccoon’s heightened sense of smell.  Then the creepy crawlers came out. Campers examined moths, roaches, fireflies, and other insect bodies to observe their adaptations.


A dead bug is not half as cool as a live one, so campers set off to catch their own. They laid traps in the Stove Room, buring small plastic containers in the dirt with a tiny amount of dog food in the bottom of each. Critters smell the bait and then fall into the trap, unable to get back out again. Campers left their traps to work for an hour, after which they found quite a few slugs and ants. They brought them back to the classroom for further observation, using magnifying glasses to see them better. Since they found so many slugs, they also compared the slug bodies to the bodies of our worms and then recorded all of their observations in their scientific journals.

While waiting for their traps to work, campers built their own nocturnal creatures out of cheese cubes, grapes, carrots and other healthy foods. Their snacks were not only nutritious, but creepy! Campers also learned about cockroaches, a Phipps favorite. Far from being disgusting, they are really beneficial. As nature’s garbage men, they help to keep it clean. Campers found out that roaches are one of the oldest families of insects – even older than the dinosaurs!


Finally, campers learned about bioluminescence. A wide variety of creatures create light with their bodies by using a chemical called luciferin. In the case of fireflies the luciferin combines with oxygen, which comes into their bodies through holes in their abdomens as they breathe, giving off a pale yellow or green light. These cells also have special crystals in them to reflect the light back away from the insect, making it easily seen. Fireflies can switch their lights on and off by breathing in and out. Campers observed fireflies in person  to learn more and watched a groovy lava lamp demonstration to understand how the chemical reaction works. They gave it glowing reviews!

Evening Ed-Ventures are temporarily suspended until the fall, but our summer camp registration is open! For a complete list of all our summer camp offerings, please visit our website.

Check out the slide show below for more pictures!

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


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