Zoo unveils spring nature camps in a brand-new space

March 16, 2017 - 12:26pm
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Oregon Zoo's spring break day camps help kids connect with nature

With spring just around the corner, Northwest campers should be prepared for encounters with bears, cougars and bobcats — not to mention elephants, lions and orangutans. The Oregon Zoo's spring break day camps, presented by Banfield Pet Hospital, return March 27-31.

"Zoo day camps are a great way for kids to have some active outdoor fun and connect with nature," said Grant Spickelmier, zoo education curator. "Campers explore little-known areas of the zoo, learn about animals by meeting them face to face, and leave inspired to care for the natural world."

And there's even more to look forward to this year, with the zoo's new conservation education center serving a focal point for the camps. The center — the fifth of eight major projects made possible by the 2008 community-supported zoo bond measure — features brand-new classrooms nestled into a wooded hillside right next to a nature play area. Spring campers will be the first to experience the brand-new space, which opened this month and also includes a Species Conservation Lab and Insect Zoo.

"The center represents our region's commitment to conservation education, and we are especially excited by the new opportunities it provides campers," Spickelmier said.

Camp activities — specifically planned for the interests of each age group — include games, tours, stories, songs, animal visitors and take-home art projects inspired by the day's theme. Campers will also get to try out scientific technologies like thermal imaging, temperature and light sensors, and video microscopes.

As of this writing, spots are still available for most age groups, but Spickelmier says they tend to fill quickly as the dates draw near.

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.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor's checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects focused on saving animals from extinction include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and cheetahs.