It is not often that a 24 year old can act as a child but I had the opportunity to do so this weekend during the teacher training at Elkhorn Slough. Any teacher that wants to take his or her class to the Slough can do so but must first attend a one day free training class at the Slough where they get acquainted with the educational materials, activities, and trails that the area has to offer. It is always fun to test teachers, so we started off the day with the “What is a Watershed?” activity, in which we asked the teacher as they entered the conference room to take a minute and add a drawing or word to a very basic picture of some hills and a waterway. The teachers actually knew a little bit more than I initially thought.
My inner child was released after heading to the visitor center and starting the “Food Web” activity, in which each groups of three got a mystery bag with items in it representing different organisms. The groups then had to decide who were the producer, primary consumer, and secondary consumer, hence, creating a food chain. After looking through the exhibits, sitting crisscross on the ground, and much debate each group created their respective food chain and presented it to the group. We discovered that small mammals are essential in an ecosystem and are the prey of many carnivores. This overlap between food chains creates a food web. One group had an interesting food chain that consisted of a carnivorous snail that drills a hole in the shell of a clam (visible in picture) and then sucks out the flesh. The shells are then necklace ready.
The rest of the day consisted of walking the trails, pretending to be children, shaking trees to see the insects that live there, seeing macroinvertebrates and plankton under a microscope, and learning about the unique characteristics and evolution of bird bills and feet.