The Reid Park Zoo offers an adventurous summer day camp experience every year for kids entering grades one through eight. From June through July, children get the chance to play wildlife-themed games, make arts and crafts, and most importantly, go behind-the-scenes to interact with a variety of the zoo’s animals.
The students will also get to see first-hand how the zoo’s staff use STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) practices every day to care for the animals. Many of their activities incorporate lessons that demonstrate the importance of protecting wildlife and their natural habitats.
Each week campers will also receive swimming sessions at the Edith Ball Adaptive Recreation Center so they can cool off during a day full of action.
The day camp has registration organized on a weekly basis. For zoo members the fee for a week of camp is $235, for non-members the fee is $275. Camp starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. on weekdays. There are three different camp groups each week, with children split up by their relative school grades. Jennifer Stoddard, the zoo’s education supervisor, said there is space for about 20 kids in each camp group for a total of 60 kids every week.
Thanks to a generous donor, Stoddard said the zoo is offering 30 camp scholarships provided to families on a financial need basis. There is a form on the zoo’s website that parents and guardians can fill out to apply for the scholarships. The application form is due by Saturday, April 20. The zoo staff will hold a lottery of all the applications on Wednesday, May 1.
“Most all the campers will get a chance to be able to see animals like the anteater and the rhino behind the scenes,” Stoddard said. “They will have the opportunity to meet live animal ambassadors, like the armadillo and alligator and each group focuses on a certain topic according to their grade levels.”
The camp staff will provide two snacks each day to the students, and there is a scheduled lunch break. The program doesn’t include lunch, so parents are encouraged to send their children with a packed lunch or they can buy lunch at the Zoofari Market Cafe.
The zoo will offer the kids an opportunity to “learn a greater love and appreciation and understanding of the animals that inhabit the world with us,” Stoddard said. In each camp, the kids will also learn steps they can take to promote wildlife conservation in their own lives.
Stoddard said she has received positive feedback from parents about their kids’ experiences.
“For the students, it is all of the different opportunities that we’re able to provide them from behind-the-scenes and learning from animals up close and learning about animals in a more engaging way than the average trip to the zoo provides,” Stoddard said.