Winter break camps help kids connect nature, culture

November 22, 2013 - 11:21am

Zoo's 'ARcTic Adventure' camps highlight the connections between art and wildlife

Winter break is a great time for kids to connect with both nature and culture at the Oregon Zoo. This year's "ARcTic Adventure" day camps — held Dec. 30-31 and Jan. 2-3 at the zoo — will focus on animals and art, helping kids to develop their own artistic skills while learning about the animals at the zoo. Camps are intended for children in kindergarten through fourth grade.

"Animals have inspired humans since the dawn of civilization," said Jennifer Whitener, zoo camps supervisor. "You can see that in art from all over the world. This year, our winter day camps will highlight some of the connections between art and animals, as seen in everything from Native American totem poles to Asian fabric art to African beadwork."

Camp activities include crafts, songs, stories, snacks, animal visitors and in-depth tours of the zoo — with a different art-and-animal theme for each day:

      • At Northwest ARTifacts camp (Dec. 30), kids explore our connection to animals that share our region, with visits to black bears, cougars and eagles. Campers can learn about weaving and design family totem poles.
      • African Art Safari (Dec. 31) sends campers on a trek through the zoo's Predators of the Serengeti exhibit, home to lions, cheetahs and African wild dogs. Kids craft beadwork, build drums and make a shield like the Maasai people of East Africa.
      • At Animals, Art, Asia (Jan. 2) campers go on a jungle journey to see how elephants, orangutans and other Asian animals influence the fabric art and stories from this part of the world.
      • ARcTic Blast (Jan. 3) transports kids to the Arctic and Siberia, home to polar bears, Amur tigers and Amur leopards. Campers learn the role art plays in storytelling and create animal sculptures and carvings.

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 kindergartners, 1:8 for first- and second-graders, and 1:10 for third- and fourth-grade camps.

Camp hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Children may attend one day, a few days or all four. Each day is $38 per person for zoo members and $45 per person for non-members. Early care, late care and lunches are available at an added charge. As of this writing, camps are still available for all age groups, but Whitener says they tend to fill quickly as winter break draws near. Find more information and register online or call 503-220-2781.