Zoo summer camps connect kids with nature

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Campers learn about animals from around the world, with a focus on NW wildlife

Northwest campers should be prepared for encounters with bears, cougars and bobcats this summer — not to mention giraffes, elephants and flamingos. The Oregon Zoo's popular summer camps return June 17, with programs for children 4 years of age through eighth grade.

"Zoo camp is a great way for kids to have active outside fun and connect with nature," said Jennifer Whitener, program supervisor. "We'll be hiking, observing native wildlife, learning about animals — every day is an adventure."

Each weeklong camp includes crafts, songs, stories, snacks, animal visitors and in-depth tours of the zoo. Camp activities, specifically planned for the interests of each age group, cover everything from designing your own zoo to learning about veterinary medicine.

"Our campers learn about animals from around the world, with a focus on the amazing wildlife right here in the Northwest," Whitener said. "Zoo camp is also a great place to explore animal-related careers. Some of our older campers get to meet with naturalists, zookeepers and veterinarians from Banfield Pet Hospital's FutureVet program to learn about their jobs."

The zoo's professional camp staff has been helping children explore the wonders of wildlife through fun, hands-on learning since 1983. Staff members are selected for excellence in programming for children and typically have also worked for public schools, OMSI, Outdoor School or Audubon. Most are college graduates or are working on a degree, and many return year after year. Limited group size allows staffers to give zoo campers personal attention with staff-to-student ratios of 1:6 for 4-year-olds and kindergartners, 1:8 for first- and second-graders, and 1:10 for third- through eighth-grade camps.

"Our counselors are very active in engaging the kids," Whitener said. "They're not just glorified babysitters."

As of this writing, camps are still available for all age groups, but Whitener says they tend to fill quickly as the end of school draws near.

Register now