Critter Camp for Kids
By Kathe Sudano,
April 5, 2022
It’s not often we in Tucson have a forecast of 100% chance of severe thunderstorms but that happened on Tuesday March 29th, 2022. Add over 50 fourth graders into that mix along with a significant drop in temperature, let them wander around the ten acres that Camp Cooper sits on at the end of Trails End Rd and it might lead some folks to change their plans for the day.
Not the fearless combination of individuals that were part of the Camp Cooper program staff and Charlotte Ackerman, Catalina Foothills Stem Integration Specialist and several other educators from Sunrise Elementary school. We learned the lengths they had gone to save the first field trip the students/parents had on their calendars in a very long time. Then, they came back and offered the same program to over 50 more students on Thursday March 31st, 2022.
Camp Cooper staff Isaac, Mariah, Brittne, Jen and Alexianne warmly greeted the students, each morning, to share the outdoor space that must be, hands down, one of the best classrooms ever! The students were all in to better understand how to protect our Sonoran Desert.
They hiked, learned about animal tracks and skulls, viewed ridgelines and imagined potential den sites for bobcats which are often found in the area around the camp. Binocular lessons and critter viewing were also part of several field stations along with creating the colors of the desert to better understand how animals rely on camouflage.
Gale Sherman, photographer from the Bobcats in Tucson Research Project explained how bobcats have generally adapted to living amongst us, especially the area around Camp Cooper. Utilizing the research data from radio collars, the team may be better able to understand how to support and manage watchable wildlife.
The Field Study Journal each student was given helped them follow along with the various sections. Several of the AZ master naturalists from Tucson who volunteered enjoyed working with the fourth graders. Trinity Walsh and Richard Linsenberg from our latest cohort (6) were on hand to assist students as they moved from each thirty-minute lesson to the next. Peggy Ollerhead (C3) and Kathe Sudano (C3) were excited to see the staff at Camp Cooper. The pandemic interrupted our initial attempts to collaborate but hopefully there will be plenty of future opportunities. Thanks ‘Ms. Ackerman’ (each eager group of students clamored to consult with her!) for the opportunity to learn alongside the students.
Ms. Ackerman had mentioned to the volunteers that the opportunity for the students to interact with master naturalists would make the day special for students, but I believe it worked both ways.