This morning I dropped off my son for his last day of Zoo Camp. The week flew by and my son enjoyed every minute of it. We will be enrolling him next year too, so let me tell you what he did and why we are happily sending him back.
This is the first camp my son ever attended. We have never needed daycare and with a full summer schedule of baseball, swimming, karate, and summer learning at home, he never really needed any extra activities. However, my son has wanted to be a Zookeeper since he could talk. He also wants to be a Zoo Veterinarian and Zoo Pharmacist… according to him “vets only see the animals sometimes and he needs to make the medicines for them when they are sick – but the keeper gets to spend every day with them”… so he is going to be them all. He also dreams of “owning” his own zoo and draws maps and plans of where he will put the animals and what animals he will have in his zoo at every opportunity.
We sought out a camp that would be rewarding. Not just somewhere to watch him over the week with a few arts and crafts, but something that would excite him and continue to fuel his passions. This camp did just that. They experienced animal encounters, learned about different animals and habitats, endangered species, preservation, participated in a stream study and did this all at one of his favourite places – the zoo! They also had time for fun in the splash pad and on the playground, and did find time to do a few crafts too. They were busy and engaged the whole day, every day, all week.
The camp counsellors were different. Each one of them shared the same passion for animals. It wasn’t just a summer job, it was as rewarding for them as it was the kids. They are lucky to experience once in a life time opportunities and pass their knowledge on to flourishing and growing children’s minds. Every day we were greeted with big smiles and you could sense their enthusiasm. They spent a long week with children, in 30 C weather every day – for 7+ hrs a day, yet those same smiles were always there at pick up.
The only things I would change would be on my part. We were offered purchasing a second camp shirt for $10, and I didn’t do it. Next time I will, as the sign of a happy busy child is a sweaty dirty child, and he came home this way every day (one day you thought he’d been cleaning chimneys!). This meant his camp shirt needed to be washed every night all week. Also, send lots of bug spray! There are lots of mosquitoes at the zoo. They also warned us about this in advance, and I thought how many mosquitoes are out when it is 30 C + outside? Well, there are still enough to get lots of bites!
Some of you reading this might be anti-zoo. I respect your opinions and support anybody who is committed and dedicated to their beliefs. I would like to share a couple points with you about why we support the Bowmanville Zoo.
My son has dreams! I would never discourage him from going for gold or doing what he wants to do. In fact, I want to encourage him to dream big. Reach for the stars. Life will throw curve balls and lessons in time, but life at age 7 is simple. I will do everything to help him fuel his passions and beliefs. He loves animals. I will continue to read different animal encyclopedias to him on request as bedtime stories. I will take him to different zoos and let him see and learn all he can. I will be the first one to support him in trying to achieve what it is that brings him happiness.
My son is already a conservationist. He will ask me to catch a fly and release it outside rather than using the fly swatter. He wants to see species preserved and learn about them as do I. Unfortunately we (humans) are taking over habitats of most animals at an alarming rate. I understand an anti-zoo belief of animals not being caged and free and wild, but there is limited space left on this planet for this to happen. At reputable zoos these animals are well taken care of and breeding programs are allowing for conservation and preservation of these species. With organizations and facilities that take care of these animals it allows so many to learn about them and what we can do to make life better for them, and keep them safe.
The camp offered a parents night BBQ which we attended. We had an hour to walk around the zoo before heading off to the big tent for dinner. My son was our tour guide. It was rewarding to listen to him and all he had learned over this past week. He remembered the animals names and even showed us how to get the singing dogs to sing – waking them up from a nap with his mimic of their howl. He remembered specific facts about each of the animals, like pointing out to us that the goat babies were called kids and had only been born a week prior. He was so proud.
Camp also teaches our children so many other important skills. Making new friends, getting along with and listening to new people, learning in an environment different from a school setting, independence (putting on their own sunscreen, etc), and most importantly fosters growth for learning that can be carried far beyond the week spent at camp. If you are looking for a great camp full of adventure, learning, and more, we give Eco Adventure Camp at the Bowmanville Zoo two thumbs up! I wish I had more pictures to share, but with him doing this all on his own, there was no mom hovering over with the camera. These memories are his alone and will be kept with him for a lifetime I am sure.