Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Critter Club meets Camp

HAWS Kids 'N Critters Summer Camp ended last week after a 10 week run.  One of the things that made it especially wonderful was that we had three dedicated volunteers from our school year Critter Club helping out our camp staff.  While Camden, Melissa and Mia didn't come every day, these teens probably came about half the time -- which is incredible considering how kids generally look forward to the freedom that summer vacation can give them!

Our volunteers helped clean up after campers, ran games with the kids, got supplies and animals for the counselors, and helped with supervision.  They were enthusiastic and went above and beyond our expectations!

At the end of camp we gave them each thank you cards signed by each of the staff along with a gift card for $10 to Culvers.  I wanted them to know how much we truly appreciated their hard work, dedication and sacrifice of part of their summer, and hoped the cards made them feel appreciated.

I was truly touched at their reactions.  Mia became teary eyed, Melissa objected to the gift card because she kept saying that she was volunteering as a camp assistant because she enjoyed it, not because she expected to get anything, and Camden also said that he enjoyed coming and helping out at HAWS.  All three were very surprised and touched by their thank yous, and that made it worth it. 

My hope is that our gratitude made an impression on them and they understand how valued they are. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Guest Blogger from "Science with the Animals"

Hi, my name is Madi Edens and I’ve been a part of different HAWS Education programs for about seven years and have recently started being a camp volunteer.  This week I’m in a fairly new camp called “Science with the Animals.” This camp is like a regular Kids ‘N Critters Camp but has more scientific activities. Some of these activities include looking at mites/parasites under microscopes, watching a surgery performed by HAWS veterinarians, learning about animal anatomy, and conducting our own experiments after  learning about the scientific method. We have to come up with a experiment ourselves and decide how we’re going to conduct it.

Khris gave us a PowerPoint on the first day of camp that showcased the scientific method. Following this PowerPoint were videos of different experiments researchers have done with dogs, birds and chimpanzees. One of the studies that interested me was one that focused on how dogs pay attention to us and the signals we give them. In this study, people would put dogs in a sit/stay a couple feet away from a chair and two cups. The person would then sit on the chair, give the dog a release word and point to one of the cups. They found that dogs almost always go to the cup that was pointed at. This is something that even chimps don’t do even though they are thought to think more like humans than any other animal. 

As I mentioned earlier this camp is newer as it was for the first time last summer and I’ll admit my group didn’t do so well with our experiment then. This year however, we knew what we were doing and conducted an interesting experiment. The experience we did was based off of the one in the video we saw. We decided to see whether cats or dogs respond better to pointing. Our hypothesis was that dogs would respond better. We tried to eliminate variables by using the same treats and cups for both the dogs and the cats, and making sure that we did say anything to the animal or move our hands around while pointing. 

What we found at the end of our research proved our hypothesis. There was a 100% success rate with the dogs and only a 62.5% success rate with the cats. We found it interesting that cats had such a lower success rate. While dogs were thought to be domesticated first, cats have still been around humans for a LONG time. I feel as that the independent nature of cats factors into why they didn’t respond as well to pointing as the dogs did. Since cats don’t rely on us as much as dogs they may not be as in tune to what we are doing or showing them.

Activities like this are one of the many reasons I love coming to camp. Not only do we get to come up with and perform our own experiment, we get to think about why we see the results we do and make conclusions based on these results. This was just one small activity in science camp but it made us think outside the box and figure out why the results ended up how they did. Who knows, maybe years down the road a camper will think back to their experiment and decide to look further into it?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Birthdays! (that is plural!)

HAWS recently celebrated our 50th birthday.  50 years ago a group of kind hearted Waukesha County Residents decided that something needed to be done for the stray and unwanted animals in the community, and created an animal shelter.

Eva Metrusias has been a Kids 'N Critters Camp attendee for the last several years.  This week is her second session attending our Camp Gone to the Dogs.  We know what a wonderful kid she is, and always enjoy seeing her at camp.

However today Eva gave proof that younger generations are just as kind hearted as those who started HAWS half a century ago.  She came to camp with her mother and brother carrying a lot of donations for HAWS.  When I asked her about how she was able to collect so much for us, Eva told me that her birthday was earlier this week and she asked for donations to HAWS in lieu of presents.

So Happy 12th Birthday Eva!  And thank you so much for sharing your birthday with HAWS!