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Learning with DINOSAUR TRAIN: Growing Crystals with Nature Trackers Adventure Camp

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The Rock Father is a 2014 PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent) BloggerThis Monday, Jim Henson’s DINOSAUR TRAIN rolls into town for an all-new, hour-long special on PBS KIDS with the NATURE TRACKERS ADVENTURE CAMP. Featuring four exciting and educational adventures (full details on each below), The Rock Daughters and I have not only taken an early look at the special, but have recently completed one of the fun (and free) activities that YOU can do with your little ones as a member of the Nature Trackers Club. Our adventure: Growing Crystals.

Note: If you’d like to try this at home, download the printable instructions right here.

Our adventure begins...A few weeks ago, our supplies arrived here at Rock Father HQ: A box of goodies that included the new special, a cool flap-book called BUDDY and the NATURE TRACKERS (you can get it from my affiliate, Amazon), and some tools for our crystal-growing adventure. Now, when I think about “growing crystals,” I think of SUPERMAN… as in “The Fortress of Solitude” and Christopher Reeve growing a massive structure out of a single crystal that looks like a Halloween glow-stick. Just in case any of you are like me, this project will not have those results, so I’m just getting that out of the way to avoid disappointment. What this entails is boiling water, placing it in a canning jar, mixing in some table salt, and placing a string (weighted with a paper clip) into it, and awaiting the glory. Food coloring (which we had in our pantry) is completely optional, and Addie chose blue.

Using the included worksheet, Addie was asked to draw what she thought the crystals would eventually look like, with space to draw the final results at a later date.


So how did it turn out? Well, here’s what our crystals looked like a week later… a sort of strange collection clumped on the string…


Get your adventure rolling this Monday, with DINOSAUR TRAIN: NATURE TRACKERS ADVENTURE CAMP. Here’s a preview…



Buddy, Tiny, Shiny and Don go river rafting for the first time at Nature Adventure’s Tracking Camp. Their old pal Jess Hesperornis meets up with them and they all learn about erosion and the importance of rivers, before finishing up their adventure by cruising through some rapids!

Educational Objective: Rivers and streams are ribbons of water that start at some high point and flow downhill – often with streams gathering into rivers. Animals and plants living on land depend on rivers and streams for providing fresh water and nutrients.


For their second outing at Nature Trackers Adventure Camp, Buddy, Tiny, Shiny, Don and other friends learn about the tree line as they set out to hike up a mountain. Shiny is determined to get to the top of mountain forest. Buddy wonders if they’ll be able to see anything from the mountaintop, through the tall trees. The kids are amazed that the higher they hike, the shorter trees and bushes get! Then they reach the tree line – a certain point on the mountain, where trees are really small because they don’t have enough air to breathe and the temperature is too cold. In the end, Shiny and all the kids use teamwork to all reach the mountaintop together!

Educational Objective: The timberline, or tree line, is a certain elevation on a mountain where the temperatures are colder, the air is thin, and the soil is less moist making it hard for most plants and trees to grow. Trees may grow as small shrubs. The amount of oxygen is less so it’s harder for animals to breath at the tree line and above.


The Nature Trackers Adventure Campers are back for another adventure and this time they’ll be travelling to a rainforest! Once they arrive in the dense rainforest, the campers explore different levels of the ecosystem, including the forest floor and the canopy of leaves at the top of the forest. After a hike through the rainforest, the campers’ fun adventure culminates as each kid takes a ride on a zip line, where they all get a bird’s eye view of the entire rainforest!

Educational Objective: Rainforests are very dense, warm, wet, forests that are home to a vast array of different life forms. Rainforests get a lot of rain, at least 70 inches per year. Rainforests, often called the “lungs of the Earth,” generate much of the oxygen we breathe.


The Nature Trackers Adventure Campers are led by Mr. Conductor and Gilbert on a hike down a canyon, where they can see the different layers of the Mesozoic Era! At first Lily Lambeosaurus is reluctant to go, thinking that a new adventure sounds hard, but Don convinces her that a new adventure can be worth the effort. At the bottom of the canyon, the kids dig for fossils. Each Nature Tracker goes home with a “new” Ammonite fossil, and Lily is so glad she tried something new!

Educational Objective: Canyons are deep cuts in the earth’s surface. They are formed by erosion. Erosion is mainly caused by the flow of rivers. It takes millions of years for canyons to become the grandiose natural landmarks they are today. The bottom rocks in canyons can date back billions of years, beyond the Mesozoic. Canyons can also be formed by a shift of the earth’s tectonic plates.

For more great programming and activities, check out PBSKIDS.org.


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