The San Antonio Zoo Troop goes to Zoo Camp
For so many moms of school-aged kids, summer is a challenge. Over about a dozen precious weeks, we are tasked with keeping calendars full of events and activities that keep our kids engaged, active and inquisitive. Bonus mom points if the activities are fun. You want your kids to enjoy their summer, and you want to enjoy every special moment you can with them, but you also want them to develop their own interests and to feed that spark that keeps them curious and wanting to know more.
So, I was excited when the San Antonio Zoo invited me and several other local bloggers, who together make up the Zoo Troop blogger ambassadors, to experience a taste of Zoo Camp. With our kiddos in tow, we got the opportunity to take a sneak peek into what Zoo Camp students do all day. The zoo’s weeklong camps for children from kindergarten to 6th grade run from May 30 – June 3 through August 15 to 19, the week just before school in many districts. Older kids can also take part in special camps designed just for them. During their time there, little learners dive into the wild world of animals, learning about their natures, habitats and eating habits, just to name a few. Some lessons are even hands-on.
Our day began with a meet and greet with the Zoo’s new giraffe residents. With lettuce leaves in hand, Zoo Troop kiddos came face to face with the gentle giants and fed them a snack. Being so close to these beautiful animals could have been overwhelming, but the zoo staff gently encouraged the kids and ensured they felt safe. Then, a very knowledgeable zoo staff member shared several giraffe fun facts before we were off to the next exhibit.
Next, it was on to a show-and-tell presentation of different little critters. The participants were introduced to a tiny armadillo (who was too fast to capture on camera), and got to get their hands on snake skins (one shedding and one live-in-the-flesh), otter pelts and other bones, skins and fossils from animals in different habitats. Germophobes will be happy to know that kids were offered “zoo goo” or antibacterial hand gel after every different animal encounter or hands-on experience.
A visit to Lory Landing was a must. Zoo Troop kids were handed small cups of lory food and allowed time to go and feed the adorable little birds. Several of the birds even opened the lid on the small plastic containers themselves. All the kiddos had to do was wait for a hungry bird and hold the cup steady. Even the smallest kids got the hang of it right away.
We rounded out the day at Zoo Camp with a turn on the beautiful carousel, feeding the Koi fish, a short exploration of select zoo exhibits including some lions in repose and the zoo’s resident tapir, and a ride on the Zoo Train.
Mothers of neuroatypical, sensitive children or those who need additional patience, may find this an excellent option for summer activities, depending on their individual child’s needs. There are plenty of opportunities for experiencing new things, and for celebration when it goes well. The outdoor environment is ideal for burning up extra energy and coming home tired. Plus, the day-long schedule and small group structure encourages sticking to a routine and practicing social skills with other children, all while staying engaged.
All in all it was a fun taste of what campers can expect from a week of summer camp at the San Antonio Zoo.