Happy Campers

I went to one summer camp as a kid: Sam Vincent’s Basketball Camp.  I don’t currently play in the NBA, so apparently it didn’t take.  It probably didn’t help that I was the shortest person in attendance either.  The thought of going to a class to learn anytime from June to the end of August is absolutely absurd to a lot of kids.  “Learn” turns into something of a naughty word for a lot of kids during this three month period.

Offering learning opportunities in an informal environment is a great way to break through to those kids.  Offering those same kids learning opportunities that allow them to interact with their environment will not only break through to them, it will pick them up in a rocket car and jet them off to a pirate space castle of imagination.  (Sweet!)

OK, that’s clearly a bit exaggerated, but you get the point.

I saw this in action while observing a ZooKambi class called, “Who is Entertaining Who.”  In this class, which is geared for grades five through seven, campers learn about enrichment and how taking care of our animals extends WAY beyond feeding and cleaning.  Sounds pretty cool so far, and it’s definitely a great learning experience for budding vets or mini zookeepers.  The really cool part of this class comes at the end, when our campers apply all that they have learned and actually get to make enrichment items for some of our animals here at PPZ.  Our teachers give the kids information on the animal of their choosing and access to building supplies for the enrichment items.  If they think up a completely original or off the wall design or concept, the class gets to work with a zookeeper here to make sure it’s safe for the animals before they introduce it to the exhibit.  How cool is that?  Originality and imagination isn’t corrected, it’s rewarded.  ZooKambi classes get to interact directly with our animal experts and they could possibly invent a totally new enrichment item for an animal here.  

Now THAT is a summer camp class mini-me would have been in to.  In fact, current-me was into it!  When I caught up with the class, they were getting ready to observe enrichment items they had made for our red pandas.  I’m talking proper observation here!  They were taking notes, rating the animal reaction to the items, and discussing the outcome.  

No one had any idea what the pandas were going to do once these items were introduced to their environment, which is what made it so exciting!  The wonder of possibility will never get old for me regardless of my age.  For that reason, I’m not going to tell you how the pandas reacted to the enrichment items.  You’ll have to wonder for yourself.

Harley Napping

Harley vs. Enrichment... Enrichment won.