As temperatures plummeted Monday, 9-year-old Hayden Bailey said he felt toasty warm as he learned all about the desert.
Hayden was among 16 kids who were learning about the desert and the animals that inhabit it at one of Lee Richardson Zoo’s Winter Edventures camps. The theme of this week’s camp is “Turnin’ up the Heat!”
“We learned about the animals that live in the desert. We learned how they adapt. We learned all the different types, and we learned places that have deserts that are really dry, places that get a lot of rain, things like that,” Hayden said.
His buddy, 9-year-old Gavin Norton, learned a lot, too.
“I learned that the big deserts are hot but there’s this little one, which is way hotter, so it has oases in it. An oasis is like a spot with water and tropical stuff like that. I don’t know why it’s in a desert,” Gavin said. “I also learned that it’s hard for camels kind of — well it’s kind of easy, actually — for them to live in the desert because they just store their water in their backs.”
Mason Vigil, 11, explained the way other animals adapt to the extremes of the desert.
“Today, I learned how some animals can lift their bodies or do many things to help them survive in the desert. Like the kangaroo can lick their fur and dig in the ground and lay down to stay cool,” Mason said. “I also learned that tadpoles, it takes them at least nine to 14 days for them to hatch and it takes them nine to 12 days for them to turn into toads.”
Adrik Gomez, 9, said he learned all about toads and snakes.
“The toad lays their eggs as fast as they can, so the water won’t dry up when it gets all dry. And the snakes don’t always have all their body on the ground because if they had their whole body on the ground, it would be too hot for them,” Adrik said.
During a sand relay activity, the four boys teamed up to compete against three other teams to see which team could create seven different desert species out of sand the fastest.
“So you each are going to get a tub of sand. It’s magic sand that sticks together. You guys are going to race against the other groups to make all seven animals out of this sand,” zoo docent Krista Scheuerman said.
The kids enjoyed a variety of activities throughout the day.
“The kids are really enjoying it,” zoo docent Joshua Welch said. “We’ve decorated their water bottles, we’ve done the name game, we’ve done some other activities relating to teamwork, and then we also talked about the desert, survival in the desert, different types of animals and plants in the desert.”
One of those animals was Beardo, the bearded dragon at the zoo, which docent Rachel Collins asked the kids questions about as she carried Beardo around for them to look at.
“He’s from Australia. Bearded dragons are found in Australia, which you’ll remember looking at the map, the whole thing was basically a desert, right?” Collins asked. “What’s one thing you notice about his skin?”
Hayden noticed the lizard’s color.
“It’s camouflage to look like the sand,” he said.
Gavin noticed its spikes, and Mason said that it uses its tail to protect itself.
The kids also got to see a spadefoot toad.
Misty Ayers, manager of on-site programs at the zoo, along with the docents led the zoo’s Winter Edventures camp, which took place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 22 and 23, and again Monday and Tuesday.
Last week, the topic was the arctic, and this week’s topic is deserts and rainforests.
“Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the rain forest, do some rain forest activities and games and then take them swimming at the YMCA,” Ayers said. “It’s only supposed to be 13 degrees tomorrow, so we thought swimming would be a fun twist, since it’s the middle of winter.”