It’s that time of year again. That’s right—time for ZooCamp at Oakland Zoo. And this year, along with a lot of perennial favorites, we’ve got several exciting new things happening.
ZooArt is a fun new program for middle schoolers (entering 6th, 7th, or 8th grade) where kids get a chance to learn some creative skills like drawing, painting, and mixed media stuff like collage making. Under the direction of a trained artist, they’ll spend plenty of time learning technique before putting their new skills to work. Visiting several spots around the Zoo and the creek (with sketchbooks provided) the kids learn to draw not only a variety of animals, but plants, flowers and leaves as well. By the end of the week the kids will have produced three good-quality pieces of art that they can display in class and then take home with them. As ZooArt is a new program, it’s being offered for only two of the weeks during ZooCamp, but judging by the response so far, we might be offering additional sessions in future years.
Also new this year is Conservation Crew, a middle school program that deals with important conservation issues. Here kids learn which conservation efforts Oakland Zoo is currently involved with, as well as what they themselves can do to help. During camp the kids get to participate in various activities (dissecting owl pellets, removing invasive plants and testing water quality at Arroyo Viejo Creek right here in Knowland Park.) During a walk through the Zoo, the kids will stop off at various exhibits where they’ll learn about specific projects relating to those animals such as the Budongo Snare Removal Project in Uganda, 96 Elephants in Africa, and ARCAS, the rain forest wildlife conservation program in Guatemala. Yet rather than overwhelming them with doom and gloom forecasts, Conservation Crew empowers kids by giving them simple suggestions that they can follow to help make a difference in the world.
Every year at ZooCamp we select a particular animal as our conservation theme, along with a related organization to support. This year we’ll be focusing on tigers. One dollar from each camp attendee will go toward PAWS, the Performing Animal Welfare Society here in California. This organization is particularly important to Oakland Zoo because all five of our tigers were rescued from harmful situations. The message we’re trying to impart is that kids themselves can help make important changes in the way animals are treated (for instance by boycotting circuses and movies that employ wild or exotic animals for entertainment.) On the first day of ZooCamp, the kids will learn all about PAWS. They’ll also see a skit put on by the camp teachers where they’ll learn what life is like for a tiger as a pet, as a performing animal, and as a resident of a sanctuary (where tigers actually get to be tigers) and then they’ll see a short presentation. At the end of the week the kids get a special gift bracelet which they earn by demonstrating their commitment to conservation.
So this year should be a very special one at ZooCamp. If you haven’t already signed your kids up for this summer, you can register at http://www.oaklandzoo.org/ZooCamp_Summer.php and get on board while there’s still time. For any additional questions you can call our ZooCamp hotline at (510) 632-9525 ex 280. We’ll see you at ZooCamp!