I remember when The Kid was little- the first week of summer vacation and she was already asking to get out of the house and get into some fun. Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s Summer Zoo Camp is the perfect remedy for kids hankering for a day camp that’s filled with education, animal encounters and learning- and a wildly good time while on summer vacation!
Peanut butter and jelly.
Kids and animals.
They go hand in hand, don’t they?
I remember those awesome summer days when The Kid was in elementary and early middle school: the first day of summer break was heavenly. Our house was filled with a relaxing vibe that you could just feel. Then the boredom began. After about a week away from school, she’d start asking for day trips away from the house and, of course, heading to Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium was always on our short list. We’d walk along the paths and ooh and aah over the animals, she’d ask about a thousand questions (most I didn’t have the answer to!), and after a fun-filled day, we’d make the trek back home with more questions.
Questions like, “I wonder what armadillo skin feels like?” and “What’s it like to be a zoo keeper?”
And those were just a couple of my questions!
There’s a way to happily meld a love of animals and give kids a way to fill their curiosity- and that answer is Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s Summer Zoo Camp.
A Day in the Life of a Summer Zoo Camper
The Kid and I had the pleasure of being guests of Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium to check out exactly what goes on during the week-long camp sessions and, I have to tell you, it’s all about fun! Half-day and full-day camp sessions are filled with animal encounters, crafts, snacks, meals, and of course, walks through the zoo. The Summer Zoo Camp classes offer age-appropriate activities and the camps’ lessons focus on what kids WANT to learn about.
We had a chance to jump into a full day class and watch the four and five year olds make giraffe hats. I had a chance to talk to the kiddos and they were so sweet and loved answering my questions about the camp.
What Goes on at Summer Zoo Camp?
While the 4-5 year old zoo camp focuses on topics like animal movements, diets, patterns, and textures (there were faux fur animals all over the walls in the room), older children delve more into habitats and personalized stepping stones. They sing camp songs while walking through the zoo to check out the animal exhibits and get to do super cool activities including a trip into the elephant habitat to place carrots around as a treat.
And these kids took the task very seriously. They were so calculating in the veggie placement and we were happy to watch.
After all the carrot pieces were placed, the kids were safely brought out of the enclosure and taken to a viewing area to watch the elephants go on a hunt for the treats.
The eldest kids at Summer Zoo Camp focus heavily on endangered animal conservation and photography. They have the opportunity to meet and chat with zoo keepers, and at the end of camp, each campers’ favorite photos will be on display for their families.
Each day at Summer Zoo Camp, an animal ambassador is brought into the class for the kids to learn about. Tame, gentle animals like Dash the Fennic Fox, armadillos, skinks, and even a porcupine help to give the campers an up close look at zoo animals, learn about them, and gain a better understanding into what goes into taking care of them.
The fine folks at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium gave us a behind the scenes peek at the animal ambassadors and where they call home- and there’s no way to choose the cutest one. Many of the animals were rescued and unable to return to the wild or were bred onsite at the zoo and make fun (and safe!) learning subjects.
In just the couple of hours that we spent in the classrooms and checking out the zoo camp I learned so much about the animals that call the zoo home, like how an armadillo can completely ball up for safety, so you can imagine the amount of knowledge the campers take home with them each day.
In a Nutshell
- Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium offers half-day and full-day Summer Zoo Camp sessions. Each session lasts for one week and is dependent on age of child.
- Campers may only attend one week-long camp session each summer.
- Summer Zoo Camps begin at age 2 (parents and guardians must stay with child during entire session each day) and campers may attend through age 13.
- Snacks are provided; full day campers need to pack a lunch.
- Casual clothing and sturdy shoes are a must. Campers will receive a t-shirt at the beginning of camp and may wear on whatever day/s they choose.
- Caps are placed on Summer Zoo Camps, so early registration begins in February and is highly suggested.