Creeks, Lakes and Ponds, Oh My!

“Time in nature during childhood and role models who care for nature are the two biggest factors that contribute to environmental stewardship in adulthood.” Children and Nature Network

At KIDS for the BAY Summer Camp, our campers spend every day outdoors exploring nature. Their hands-on investigations and moments of awe and wonder are led by KIDS for the BAY Educators with a strong passion for the environment and for sharing its beauty and value with others. The fresh waters flowing through our camp locations in unique creek, pond and lake habitats provide transformative settings that foster deep nature connections and an appreciation for the natural world in all our campers.

Discovering Biodiversity at Wildcat Creek 

“Stream Science” kicked off the first week of Summer Camp. Campers enjoyed hiking along the babbling brook of Wildcat Creek, and pausing to participate in a nature listening game. They closed their eyes and placed cupped hands around their ears to amplify the bird calls around them and count how many different birds secretly lived in the canopy above. “I heard five birds! One sound was a ‘twee-twee-twee’ and one was a strong ‘caw-cooo’,” shared Maya. 

Our young Environmentalists loved exploring the ecology and biodiversity of Wildcat Creek. They greeted buckeye trees with a buckeye high-five, stretching out their fingers to mirror the five leaves. Under towering redwoods, the group compared the bare forest floor around the thick trunks to the dense greenery on the treeless side of the trail. Educator Nicole Garcia shared, “Redwood trees increase the acidity in the soil, rendering it poor conditions for anything else to grow.” Camper explorer Eva recalled the previous day’s activities spent making homes for insects or fairies out of natural objects. “The redwoods help us make fairy houses with their  branches. The trees must want us to make fairy houses!” she exclaimed.

Campers learned how to use two-way magnifying lenses to identify macroinvertebrates in the creek and how to move carefully to avoid disturbing this sensitive habitat. “Being at this camp makes me feel like a scientist,” shared Leyla. “I love using a magnifying lens because it shows me everything!” Our young naturalists gently lifted rocks to discover aquatic insects and amphibians in their first stages of life. “I found a damsel fly nymph!” Stella shared excitedly. Emi noticed, “There is a whole group of water striders over here!” The campers were amazed by all the diverse creek life they found.

Some campers wondered about the human impact on the creek they were exploring. “Are these trails bad for the environment because they remove nature and bring more people into this area?” Eva wondered. Olivia reflected, “Maybe they’re still good because they let people explore this beautiful place and realize how important nature is.” Pondering this, the campers discussed how trails can minimize harmful human impacts by directing traffic flow to designated areas and away from sensitive creek habitats. 

Removing Invasive Ivy at Strawberry Creek

Campers had the opportunity to compare Wildcat Creek in Tilden Park to the section of Strawberry Creek that runs through the University of California Berkeley campus. Environmental Health Manager, Tim Pine, met with the campers and guided them to a section of the creek bed covered with a glossy green vine. Some campers immediately recognized the plant, saying, “I’ve seen this plant before! It grows at my house!”

“This is called English Ivy. I bet a lot of you have seen it before because it can grow really fast here,” Tim explained. He knelt down to the vine and pulled a long strand of ivy until it came loose from the soil. Pointing to the roots, Tim declared, “I call that a trophy! It is like a prize to get the whole plant out with the roots because then you’re ensuring that it won’t grow back.” Campers joined in, working together to remove ivy plants twice their size! They were especially excited to clear an area by a young coyote bush to give the native plant more room to grow. Later, Eva recognized some ivy growing along a trail in Tilden and shared what she had learned. “That ivy is invasive and can suffocate the trees by growing all over them like that. It outcompetes native plants and takes over certain places–even just one piece of ivy dropped on the ground can create a new plant!”

A Miniature World in Crab Cove Pond 

At Crab Cove, one of the most enchanting moments of the day came when campers gathered around a microscope to observe a water sample collected from the brackish water pond. Before their eyes, a universe of microscopic creatures came to life! Hundreds of plankton, the tiny organisms that form the foundation of marine and freshwater food chains, could be observed in a few drops of water. Roman’s eyes widened in wonder. “I can’t believe there’s a whole world right here that we can’t even see with just our eyes. This microscope is awesome!” he exclaimed. The campers were amazed to learn that tiny plankton are responsible for producing the majority of oxygen on Earth!

These transformative outdoor experiences, facilitated by our KIDS for the BAY Educators and shared with our nature-loving campers, ignited their curiosity, nurtured their appreciation for the natural world, and fostered a sense of stewardship for our planet. Through hands-on exploration, close encounters with creek and pond life, and moments of awe-inspiring discovery, these young Environmentalists have set forth on a path of lifelong learning and advocacy for the environment we all share!

KIDS for the BAY