When school's out, zoo camps connect kids with nature

June 12, 2014 - 9:02am

Spots are still available, but with summer vacation approaching they're going fast

School's almost out — have you made plans for your kids this summer? Opportunities for summer fun and learning are going fast at the Oregon Zoo. The zoo's popular summer camps return June 16 and run through Aug. 29, with programs for children 4 years of age through ninth grade.

"We are dedicated to creating exciting and engaging experiences for the kids so they can explore nature in a fun and safe way," said Jennifer Whitener, program supervisor. "Camp can also be a great place to explore animal-related and wildlife careers. Our Animal Investigators camp, for example, introduces students entering sixth grade to animal care. Campers can meet a veterinarian from Banfield Pet Hospital and learn about responsible pet ownership and what's needed to keep pets healthy and happy."

Each weeklong camp includes crafts, songs, stories, snacks, animal visits and in-depth tours of the zoo. As of this writing, spots are still available for most age groups throughout the summer, but camp organizers say they tend to fill quickly as the end of school draws near.

"One of the best parts about zoo camp is our incredible staff," Whitener said. "Our staff are experts at allowing the children's own interests and curiosity to guide their learning experience."

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, 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.

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