Archive for the ‘Family Fun’ Category

Party Animals Wish You A Happy Birthday!

by | September 11th, 2012

Fun With Animal Costumes

How would your child like to share a birthday celebration with some wild animals? It’s easy with the Oakland Zoo when you sign up for one of our animal-themed education birthday parties.  They’re available on Saturdays and Sundays year-round and offer a variety of fun and memorable activities. You can choose from either of two time slots: 10:30 in the morning or 1:30 in the afternoon. The basic party package accommodates up to 20 people, with an option for 20 more for an additional fee.

The party starts out in the festively decorated Discovery Room of the Zoo’s Education Center. There, your child and their friends will get the chance to explore

Playing With Puppets

and play with puppets, puzzles, animal costumes, and cool animal artifacts. Then, it’s story time, where they’ll get to hear an animal story told by one of our enthusiastic Education Specialists.

Then comes the best part, where the kids will get to see and touch some of our fascinating zoo creatures like snakes and lizards, chinchillas, ferrets and hedgehogs.

Meeting a Chuckwalla

After that they’ll get the opportunity to use their creative craft-making skills to make food-filled enrichment items for some of our other animals.

When it comes to food for your child’s birthday party, you have a choice. You can either bring your own, or you can leave it all to us and have the Zoo cater your party. Either way, the kids get to enjoy their cake and other treats in the exotic Rain Forest Room right next door.  The birthday child gets a special present and each of the party guests receives a goody bag filled with a variety of animal themed party favors. And in the spirit of conservation, the party bags are now made out of post-consumer plastic, and feature a fun “Go Green” wildlife message. Gifts inside the bags might include things like

Making Enrichment Projects

a small plant growing kit, recycled pencils made of bamboo, fun stickers, elephant magnets, or educational Top Trumps trading cards.

Later, the kids will meet one of our zookeepers and then head out into the Children’s Zoo to see animals like bunnies, otters, lemurs, pigs or bats enjoying the enrichment items the kids made for them.  Afterwards, your group is free to roam and explore the Zoo at your own pace. Or if you’d prefer, you can explore the Zoo earlier—before your party starts.

And one of the best reasons to have your party at the Zoo is that when the party’s over, you can leave the clean-up to us—we’ll take care of everything. But if you’d rather host your party in the convenience of your own home, we can bring the whole

Pizza Time!

thing, including the animals, right to your door aboard the Oakland Zoomobile. Either way, your child will get a fun, memorable experience that they will talk about for a long time to come.

It’s easy to book your special birthday party here at the Oakland Zoo. Simply call our Education Reservations Associate at 510-632-9525 x220. Who knows—this may be the best birthday party your child has ever had. See you at the Oakland Zoo!

Red Hot Deals on Summer Programs Now!

by | August 3rd, 2012

In case you haven’t heard, Oakland Zoo is offering a limited time discount on many of its popular community programs. From now until the end of August, you can get a 25% off when you sign up for Zoomobile and ZooSchool presentations. It turns out that there is extra space on the Zoo’s event calendar this summer, so we’re offering this great deal. And, summer is the perfect time to schedule a fun-filled animal presentation for your school, camp, or youth group.

What sort of fun is awaiting with Oakland Zoo community program? For starters, there’s our Zoomobile program, which has been a big hit  for many years. With the help of one of our experienced Education Specialists, you’ll get the opportunity to see a variety of small animals up-close  and personal at your school, library or home. You’ll learn how these fascinating creatures live and how they fit into the wondrous web of life. You’ll even get the chance to touch these animals: everything from turtles, lizards and snakes, to hedgehogs and chinchillas—even cool giant millipedes.  Zoomobile is a great way to learn about animals in a fun, informal setting.

And with the ZooSchool program, you bring your class or group to the Zoo for a full day of adventure. Your Education Specialist will greet you and escort you to a classroom where they will introduce the special theme of your presentation. Then you’ll venture out into the Zoo to explore and see our many exotic animals on a guided tour. Afterwards, you return to the classroom to wrap up and review the day’s activities. After your program has ended, you can head back into the Zoo to eat a picnic lunch or go back to visit animals until your departure time. ZooSchool gives your class or group a great way to experience Oakland Zoo.

Programs are offered Monday through Friday from 10am – 3pm. Presentations are designed for a wide range of age groups: from pre-K through 8th grade, as well as programs geared specifically for seniors. Registrations will be taken on a first come/first served basis until all the spaces are filled. It’s easy to book one of our popular animal-themed programs and take advantage of these great savings. Contact our Education Reservations Associate at 510-632-9525 x220. See you at the Zoo! Oakland Zoo…It’s Your Zoo.

A Night Among the Animals

by | July 23rd, 2012

Camping in the Meadow

Have you ever spent the night at a zoo? Well here’s your chance. In case you

Roasting Marshmallows at the Campfire

haven’t heard, there are several programs that the Oakland Zoo offers to groups and families that allow them to experience this unique and fun opportunity.

 

Bedtime with the Beasts is a great example. Catering to organizations like scouts, schools and community groups, it includes a private zoo tour, a close-up encounter with a small animal, a fun educational activity, and a continental breakfast the next day.

Fun with Drums

This year-round program is especially popular with Boy Scout and Girl Scout organizations, who utilize the Oakland Zoo as part of their badge-earning and

Breakfast is Served

“Journey” activities. Scheduled from 7pm until 10am the following morning, BTWB provides a unique environment for these kids to enrich their scouting experience.

 

Schools can also take part in the Bedtime with the Beasts program. The activities involved are fun and age appropriate, and the curriculum conforms to California science standards.

Greeting a Hedgehog

BTWB also serves community groups such as YMCAs, Girls, Inc., and church youth groups, offering activities such as “Zoo Snoops,” which gives participants the chance to use clues to identify a series of mystery animal species as they move through the Zoo, where they find boxes of artifacts that enable them to learn more about these fascinating animals.

Making Enrichment Projects

Since it’s offered year-round, BTWB allows for flexibility in sleeping accommodations:  either outdoors in the Zoo meadow, or inside the cozy education auditorium, depending on weather, curriculum, or group size.

But you don’t have to be affiliated with any group to enjoy the Zoo’s Family Sundown Safari, a fun summertime program from 5pm to 10am that caters exclusively to families. Held on five different dates throughout July and August, FSS offers families the chance to bring their own tent and sleep in the Zoo’s large grassy meadow. A series of cool activities awaits the participants. Once the tents are set up and people get settled in, they get to use their creative skills to make fun enrichment projects for the animals. Afterward, everyone goes on a nighttime tour of the Zoo. Back at camp, a professional storyteller awaits them with engaging tales of the animal world.  Around the campfire, everyone gets to roast marshmallows and make their own s’mores.  The next morning after a memorable night under the stars, a hot breakfast in the Zoo’s café starts the day off right. Next is a tour of the homes of the Zoo’s many rain forest animals. And finally, everyone gets the chance to see their enrichment items opened and enjoyed by the animals.  All in all, the Family Sundown Safari promises a memorable overnight experience for everyone involved.

Choosing Treats for the Animals

And things are on their way to getting even better. As you know, the Oakland Zoo is planning to begin building its long awaited California exhibit complex. When completed, we’re hoping to have special overnight facilities up on the hill behind the Zoo, including tent cabins, fire pits and hiking trails. The project will take some time to complete, but it’s something that we’re all looking forward to here at the Zoo.

 

So if you and your crew are looking for a memorable way to experience the

Enjoying the Enrichment

Oakland Zoo, try one of our fun overnight programs: Bedtime with the Beasts or Family Sundown Safari. It’s easy to book a date; simply visit the Zoo’s website or call our Education Reservation Associate at 510-632-9525 x220. See you under the stars!

 

Quarters For Conservation: More Than a Token Effort

by | May 17th, 2012

 

Flamingo Plaza Voting Station

Kids certainly make things more fun. I had the chance to spend some time at the Quarters for Conservation voting station at the Oakland Zoo the other day. I was sitting with “Jungle Jake” Ledesma, one of the Zoo volunteers, who was staffing the station for a couple hours, along with his plush chimpanzee “companion.” Judging by his endearing jokes and puns, Jake clearly likes engaging the public,

Jungle Jake and his Buddy

making personal connections that the station’s graphics can’t do alone. As a steady stream of visitors stopped by, I soon found myself being drawn in. Yet despite Jake’s simian sidekick, it was the young kids that made the biggest impression. The issues at stake may have been serious, but the kids were definitely having fun participating.

 

In case you haven’t heard, Quarters for Conservation is a wildlife conservation program at the Oakland Zoo whose motto is “Saving Wildlife with Each Visit.” Whenever you come to the Zoo, you receive a token. This token does two things.

Explaining the Issues

First, it symbolizes the twenty-five cent donation that the Zoo earmarks for conservation on behalf of each visitor. Secondly, it serves as a means for selecting which one of three different conservation projects this money will be spent on. At the voting station by Flamingo Plaza, you’ll find three green funnel-shaped coin receptacles under a cute little tin roof. Here you’re able to use that token to vote for which wildlife conservation effort you’d like to support. This year, we’re promoting The Amboseli Trust for Elephants, The Budongo Snare Removal Project (saving chimpanzees) and The Ventana Wildlife Society Condor Project. Whether it’s from habitat loss, poaching, or other issues, these animals face serious threats in the wild right now. Quarters for Conservation allows the public to take part in helping them.

 

As I sat there under the tin roof beside Jake, I was impressed by how aware the kids were about these worldwide issues.

Girls Involved in Conservation Efforts

They were informed, passionate, and articulate.  A nine year old girl came up and immediately started to talk about the Disneynature film “Chimpanzee,” and how it inspired her to help chimps in

 

the wild. She dropped her token in the appropriate receptacle. It spiraled its way down the little green chute and fell to the bottom with a clink. Later, another girl stopped by with her family. She was participating in a walkathon for a chimp orphanage in Uganda (pretty impressive for such a young kid.) She was having fun with another girl as they dropped a steady stream of tokens into the chimp receptacle. The elephants, by the way, got almost as many tokens, but the condors were having a bit of trouble keeping up in the race.

 

Kids Love the Coin Spinner

The coin spinner receptacle is a clever gimmick. One kid had a whole fistful of tokens and had clearly mastered the technique of getting them to spiral gradually down the chute instead of plopping straight to the bottom. Another kid, peering down into the green funnel, was fascinated by the real money that was lying among the pile of shiny tokens.

 

The adults took a more pragmatic approach, simply tossing in their tokens without allowing themselves to enjoy it as

Mastering the Token Technique

Using Props to Explain Conservation

much as the kids were. But it was clear that they were just as interested in the conservation efforts of the Zoo, and were happy to do what they could to help out.  And they’d be equally happy to know that Quarters for Conservation has raised more than $40,000 this year. That’s definitely good news for elephants, chimps and California condors. So visit the Oakland Zoo soon and show your support for wildlife conservation. Jake and his plush pal say “Thank you!”

 

ZooCamp: It’s Not Just for Summer Anymore

by | March 12th, 2012

Singing Camp Songs

I’m sure you know that ZooCamp has been a popular summer tradition here at the Oakland Zoo for many years. But did you know that recently the ZooCamp program has expanded by offering three all new camp sessions? Taking full advantage of the various breaks in the school year, ZooCamp is now offered at Spring Break, Winter Break and even Thanksgiving.  Now, your kids can experience the joys of ZooCamp throughout the year.

Wildlife Theater

It all started in 2010 with an idea by veteran ZooCamp Director Sarah Cramer. After inquiring at other institutions that offered similar events, Sarah wanted to test-run a new four-day camp session between Christmas and New Years. She had no idea how popular this new camp would be.  In fact, the premier of the Winter Break Camp greatly surpassed all expectations. At that point, Sarah knew she was on to something big. It wasn’t long before she had initiated two additional camp sessions, bringing the total to four. A new era in ZooCamp history had begun.

“Most of the kids we see at camp are repeat visitors,” says Sarah. “They come two, three, or more years in a row. They have camp friends and favorite teachers that they look forward to seeing all year. These new camps are a way to keep these kids connected year round.”

Fun With Costumes

What’s unique about these new camp sessions is their shorter format. In contrast to the weeklong structure of summer ZooCamp, campers can sign up for any number of the two-day sessions being offered.  Sarah has found that this format offers more flexibility for parents who are trying to coordinate other family events during these busy holiday periods.

Visiting a Tortoise's Home

As one of many places offering family-friendly activities in the Bay Area, the Oakland Zoo realizes that its guests have a variety of choices when it comes to spending their leisure time dollars. That’s why the Zoo strives to give a good value with all of it programs, especially ZooCamp. As one parent recently commented about her child’s love of ZooCamp, “It’s expensive, but it’s worth it.” In fact, hearing the many favorable comments from enthusiastic kids would make a believer out of just about anyone.

Exploring the Creek

And guess what– the new Spring Break ZooCamp is just around the corner, in April! Here are some of the cool things your kids can look forward to. Nature Play (our most popular summer program) is lots of fun: looking under rocks in the creek, catching tadpoles, searching for various kinds of bugs, even building forts out of materials easily found here at the park.  Nature Play is what being a kid is all about.
Then there’s Zoofari, an adventurous expedition around the Oakland Zoo. Your kids get to tour zoo exhibits, make treats for the animals, play games, sing songs, meet some animals up close, and make new friends. Offered as a kind of “best of summer camp sampler,” this program is a great introduction for kids who have not participated in our full-week summer camp.

Making New Friends

This year, Spring Break ZooCamp is offering four (4) two-day sessions: April 2-3 and 4-5, and then the following week on April 9-10 and 11-12. Registration is currently underway.  It’s easy. Simply click here to visit the ZooCamp web page, where you’ll find further information, including fees and policies. By the way, registration for our popular Summer ZooCamp program starts March 12 for our Zoo members. So check out the new ZooCamps being offered year round at the Oakland Zoo. We’ll see you there!

Operation Pumpkin Pick Up

by | November 18th, 2011

Just some of the few dedicated Oakland Zoo staff and volunteers who made operation pumpkin pick up run smoothly. Photo by J. Moore.

After another bottle of Advil, it was yet another successful year of pumpkin gathering. Once again, the Oakland Zoo staff and volunteers made an endless team effort to make operation pumpkin pick-up run smoothly. We picked up well over a thousand pumpkins from small to extra large (the back-breaking kind). This doesn’t include the four giant boxes of mini pumpkins, holding at least a few thousand tiny morsels all together. The elephants especially love these bite-sized treats so if you come to the daily feedings you’ll probably see the keepers rolling the minis into the grass, providing the elephants with something like an Easter egg hunt. All of the animals benefit from the pumpkins which provide different types of enrichment from food to furniture to fun.

Pumpkins for months to come! Photo by author.

This is of important value to the zoo as the patches donate the remains after Halloween, which would otherwise most likely be composted. We would like to give special thanks to Johnnie Moore with Moore’s Pumpkins, Holly Prinz of Pick of the Patch Pumpkins, and Tommy Speer of Speer Family Farms, for their generous donations once again this year. Please come by and enjoy the pumpkin festivities for November and December.

Lisa elephant eats a decorated treat box, while her companions walk around in search for themed card board cut outs, candy corn, and festive popsicles. Photo by author.

With the sun shining brightly that weekend, I am happy to say that Boo at the Zoo was a huge hit this year. Hundreds of visitors gathered around to watch the animals get festive Halloween themed enrichment and pumpkins, participate in the costume parade, and get a treat bag with animal friendly, palm oil free candy.  You might have even gotten to see a keeper or two dressed up! Thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate the most fun holiday of the year!!