Posts Tagged ‘summer camp’

Help Send a Kid to Camp This Summer

by | April 7th, 2014

Have you ever wanted to make a real difference in a child’s life? Sometimes, it’s as easy as helping them have a great summer. And how do you do that? Here’s an idea that you may not have considered before: Zoo Camp scholarships.animal closeup - hedgehog2
As you might already know, for the past thirty years Oakland Zoo has been organizing an immensely popular summer camp program. Each summer, Bay Area kids ages 4 through 18 are able to take a weeklong break from their everyday lives, joining hundreds of other kids for a special outdoor experience of fun, learning, and friendship. With songs, games, crafts, and nature/animal-themed activities, Oakland Zoo Camp offers the kind of genuine, hands-on experiences that are becoming harder to find in today’s techno-centric world.
But not everyone who wants to attend Zoo Camp is able to do so. Although our camp fees are very reasonable, many local kids come from families of lower income levels that aren’t easily able to afford programs of this kind. To remedy this, Oakland Zoo makes it possible every year for a certain number of children to attend its Summer Zoo Camp at a significant discount (up to 80% of the registration fee for one week of camp per child.) But the money to make these scholarships possible doesn’t just grow on trees. The program depends on outside funding.
To facilitate this, the Zoo actively solicits donations from family foundations, such as the Lowell Barry Foundation, which has awarded generous grants to the program over the years. Individual donors have also contributed, including Oakland Zoo staff members, who often donate the employee discounted portion of their child’s camp registration fee back to the program. And other parents of zoo campers occasionally donate extra money to help fund these scholarships as well.
In 2009, the program got a big boost when Oakland Zoo docent Lin Kay and husband Tony gave a generous donation to the Zoo Camp scholarship fund, and named it in honor of a close family member. Since then, they’ve donated to the Vickie Kay Memorial Zoo Camp Scholarship Fund every year. Last year, with an available balance of $7200, Oakland Zoo awarded 33 scholarships for its Summer Zoo Camp program, allowing dozens of financially strapped families to send their child to camp.
I recently talked with Zoo Camp Director Sarah Cramer who said, “We’d love to be able to accommodate all requests for scholarships, but unfortunately these requests always exceed the available funds.” (In fact, the money usually runs out within the first three weeks of camp registration.) The scholarships are need-based, so a selection process is necessary whereby applicants are assessed by family income levels. Despite our numerous funding sources, many of the families that would’ve been able to qualify are being turned away. That’s where you can help.
By making a donation, you can ensure that one more child gets the chance to be a part of this wonderful experience. Simply give Matt Rasmussen in our Development Department a call at (510) 632-9525 x154. For other questions regarding Zoo Camp please call Sarah Cramer at (510) 632-9525 x123. You can feel good, knowing that your gift will make a real difference in a child’s summer!

 

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!

What can make a ZooCamp teacher smile?

by | July 22nd, 2010

(While Sarah was busy getting camp up and running, one of our returning camp teachers offered to be a guest author.)

By Rebecca Stern, aka Vella

As a recent graduate from an elementary teaching credential program I can say Iʼve
seen my fair share of good and great schools and good and great programs. The Oaklandʼs ZooCamp is run like a great school with an exceptional amount of fun thrown into itʼs agenda. The strategy for camp is simple. Learn about animals, conservation, and our role in the environment, and have tons of fun.

As a third year returning teacher to the Oakland Zooʼs summer program I can say that working at the zoo has itʼs perks for even us teachers. Seeing the same animals so often provides opportunities to see the animals grow and change. From 2009 to 2010 alone the zoo has seen many fascinating changes. Among my favorites are the baboons fondness of their new exhibit, watching new animal introductions (such as the sunbear and chimpanzees) and oh, the babies! The most notable are the hornbill mother nesting in her exhibit while her mate brings her food and the baby squirrel monkey who rides on its motherʼs back.  Itʼs no wonder our zoo members visit time andtime again throughout the year.  If only Zoocamp was year-round!

What makes Oaklandʼs Zoocamp significantly different from other camps? Oaklandʼs Zoocamp is notable for many reasons. First, the focus isnʼt on “time-fillers” to keep the kids busy during the summer months. Each year we focus on a conservation project and teach the campers what they can do to help. We play games, sing songs, and create crafts that you can actually use. We explore and we work on developing a childʼs natural curiosity of the environment. Often itʼs as simple as letting a child pick a leaf or flower at the creek and letting them crush and smell it or lifting a rock to see what bugs are underneath. I am in awe of campers who listen intently about watershed problems and decide theyʼd like to spend time picking up trash around the zoo. Campers also go behind-the-scenes to learn how keepers care for the animals and much more.

What are some other things that make working the entire summer at the zoo so much fun? For one, I enjoy seeing my campers grow, sometimes several inches from one year to the next. I take pleasure in truly getting to know parents who love camp as much as I do. I also love meeting new campers who have not been to our camp before. They are enthralled by the activities and animal encounters that are unique to the program. I am fortunate to work for a Camp Director who fully supports my curriculum and craft ideas, among other things. In addition, I benefit from working with many different types of people with biology, zoology and education backgrounds. Ultimately, I love seeing
kids really enjoy learning without knowing thatʼs what theyʼre doing.

All together, ZooCamp is so much fun kids can’t wait to come back each summer…and neither can I!

ZooCamp Goes Global

by | March 9th, 2010

For over twenty years, the Oakland Zoo’s summer day camp has built strong connections between children and wild animals, but two years ago, we decided to go deeper.

Every year we put a different zoo resident on our camp t-shirts.  Usually it’s a new animal or someone who got a new exhibit, but in 2008 I was stumped for what to choose and opened a contest for zoo staff.  Keeper Julie Hartell-Denardo nominated our Cotton-Topped Tamarins with a very convincing “Top Ten” list of why tamarins were awesome.  On her list was Proyecto Titi, the conservation project working to save Cotton Tops and their habitat in Colombia.

A Teen Assistant and camper sit enraptured at Titi Time.

Her list made an obvious suggestion—why not deepen ZooCamp’s commitment to conservation education by supporting an in situ project ?  Reaching out to Proyecto Titi was easy, because the Oakland Zoo Conservation Fund has given small grants to the organization for many years.  We raised camp fees by $1 and designated those funds as a donation to the project.  We raised awareness for the project by putting their logo on the back of our camp shirts and created “Titi Time”, a 45 minute multi-media presentation about Cotton Topped Tamarins and Proyecto Titi (at camp, this took the form of a slideshow and skit, complete with instructors in the roles of both researchers and tamarins!)

One long standing camp tradition has been to send kids home with a “gift” on Friday afternoons. To further support Proyecto Titi, we bought friendship bracelets from Asoartesanas, a womens artisan co-op created in Colombia by Proyecto Titi.  These entrepreneurial women take the plastic bags that were litter, wash and shred them, then crochet the plastic strands into colorful and functional bags called “Eco-Mochilas.”  For ZooCamp, they created bracelets emblazoned with “Titi”!

Our first summer conservation partnership was a huge success.  We felt that the 1200+ children who attended ZooCamp made a deep and meaningful connection to a conservation project, and Proyecto Titi received $1400 from ZooCamp!

A ZooCamper sports their 2009 t-shirt.

In 2009, we were excited to continue this new tradition and selected the Hornbill Research Foundation of Thailand as our partner.  With our own Wreathed Hornbills on the front of the t-shirt, we put the HRF logo on the back, again we donated $1 per camper and had “Hornbill Hour”. In addition the teen eco-trip traveled to Thailand and got to visit Pilai Poonswad, premiere hornbill researcher, in person!

In an effort to increase our donation, we created an incentive program.  For a $3 donation, campers received a “golden” coin featuring our ZooCamp t-shirt design and the zoo’s logo.  This proved highly successful, with an astounding 70% participation rate.  In the end, we raised $3000 for HRF!

Even though it’s a summer program, running ZooCamp really is a year-round job.  We are already deep into planning for ZooCamp 2010, and ARCAS has already agreed to be our conservation partner!

Who will grace our shirt this year?  Think of the largest resident of the RAD Room and you’ve got the answer!

Learn more about ZooCamp 2010 at our website! Registration for ZooCamp 2010 begins for Zoo Members on 3/15; on 3/22, registration for Non-Members begins.