What scat is that?

by Carrie M. Miller, Science & Technology Program Developer

As the Exploring Nature summer camp director, preparing the activities and materials to be used in summer camp is only half of the fun. The other half comes from seeing the looks on the campers’ faces as each activity is presented to them. Those looks vary from “Wow!” to “Really?”  This year, in Exploring Nature camp, I’m really hoping for an “Ew!” to go along with that “Wow!” Why? Because it’s all about the scat. 

What scat is that? Cat scat? Rat scat? Bat scat?

You may call it dung, droppings, feces, pellets or poop, but we’re going to be scientific and call it scat. Using my notes from back in my park naturalist days, I’m using an activity on how to make your own scat. And no, not in the everday process. This scat activity uses oatmeal, cocoa powder and food coloring. Food coloring is used when creating select scat pieces such as goose scat and you can add pet hair for more realistic canine scat. Creating this pseudoscat has its advantages. First, there’s no nose-pinching smell to run away from. Instead, it’s an aromatic chocolate scent. Second, it’s way safer and more sanitary than trying to actually go out and search for scat from coyotes, geese and deer. Third, the pieces can be strategically placed for the campers to find. And finally, I think it’s just fun to make!

Adding a little pet hair makes the carnivore scat look more realistic.

We’ll be using the homemade “scat” in the “What Scat is That?” activity in Exploring Nature camp the week of June 18. Campers will spend three days (Monday – Wednesday) at the museum with their own backpacks going on habitat hikes at White River State Park, seeing a live animal presentation, learning about animal adaptations and testing their scat identification skills, just to name a few activities. Campers will then spend the rest of the week (Thursday – Friday) at Eagle Creek Park where they can put their knowledge to good use. Who knows, maybe one of them will come across some actual scat on a trail at the park and be able to answer “What Scat is That?”

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