As my first month of being an environmental education intern at Monk Botanical Gardens concludes, working primarily with Summer Camp in the Gardens has shown itself to be very rewarding, exciting, and full of learning moments for both the children as well as myself. So far, Grossology Camp, Flora, Fauna, and Fungi (Oh My), and Aquapalooza have been wonderful, with many camps to go throughout the summer as well. I would love to highlight a couple little critters that live in the Gardens that I love to get kids excited for.
If there is one thing that I love to tell the kids about, it is definitely pill bugs. There is no bug hunt that happens without my mentioning of these critters, and fun facts about them. Pill bugs, also known as Roley Polies, or Isopods, are a type of terrestrial crustacean (closer to a crab than an insect) with many different species in the isopoda family ranging in size from a pill bug living under a log, to a giant deep sea isopod the size of a house cat. Pill bugs also play an important role in decomposition of woody materials, as well as feeding off pollutant heavy metals in the soil such as Lead and Cadmium. I think it is important to pay mind to these tiny helpers because of their impact on soil health in the gardens, or anywhere they are found. I enjoy seeing kids’ faces light up with shock when I tell them about the Giant Sea Isopod and how they are in the same family as the critters we have in the Gardens, and the older kids also seem to enjoy leaning about how they help the soil. These “non bugs” are an important part of the ecosystem and I find it exciting and heartwarming to see children excited over them.
Another creature that lives at the Gardens that is always fun to check on, are the frogs. Frogs, providing endless alure and excitement for the kids, are another important part of the local ecosystem. Frogs are another organism that “help” their human neighbors by consuming pests like gnats and mosquitoes. The frogs have been a growing with the kids at camp these past 3 weeks. In Grossology camp, we were finding many tadpoles, and they were all in very early growth stages. The next week in Flora, Fauna, and Fungi, our tadpoles had begun to sprout the beginnings of back legs. And this past week in Aquapalooza camp, we were mostly finding froglets who had just shed their tails and were beginning to hop around the pond! Watching these frogs develop over the past few weeks is a lot like seeing the kids at camp learn and grow over the summer and is full of endless smiles and excitement.
Written by Environmental Education Intern, Victor Anderson