Summer camp registration is in full swing right now, and many of the country's top zoos offer unique and innovative summer camp programs with enriching opportunities that aren't likely to be found elsewhere. Have a child who loves animals? Why not take a walk on the wild side and consider a camp at your local zoo?
1. The Saint Louis Zoo
As a St. Louisan, I'm particularly partial to the Saint Louis Zoo, which covers 90 acres and is home to more than 19,000 wild animals. There are four different summer camp options at this impressive zoo, including a half-day Camp Joey for children who have not yet entered Kindergarten, and a full-day Camp KangaZoo for students entering grades 1-6.
For teens, the Saint Louis Zoo offers Teen Camp and Teen Camp II: Into the Wild. Both programs include an in-depth focus on zoo animals and conservation, with Teen Camp II taking place at Saint Louis University's field research station in the Missouri Ozarks.
2. The Philadelphia Zoo
Did you know that the Philadelphia Zoo holds the honor of being the first zoo in the United States? This summer, kids ages 4-13 are invited to participate in the Wildlife Warriors Philadelphia Zoo Camp, a full-day week-long program which takes place in the brand new KidZooU exhibit.
Campers will enjoy hands-on, live animal encounters, and "learn how their choices impact wildlife here and around the globe."
3. The Sedgwick County Zoo
in Witchita, Kansas, young campers can participate in Summer Learning Adventures at the Sedgwick County Zoo. Classes and half-day camps with names like "Claws, Paws, and Jaws" and "Wild Wardrobes" are available through June, July, and August for children ages 3 and up.
Teen programs such as Zooniversity and a four-year Zookeeper Apprentice Program are also available.
4. The Memphis Zoo
Ranked as America's number one zoo by TripAdvisor.com in 2008, the Memphis Zoo has week-long zoo camps for students in Pre-K through 8th grade throughout the summer season. From "Animals on the Move" to "Memphis Zoo U," there's a program for every age and interest.
5. The San Diego Zoo
Known as one of the few zoos in the world to house the giant panda, the San Diego Zoo offers a variety of grade-specific summer camps. Little Artists, which combines art and animals, is a particularly unique and popular option, and almost all of the programs include animal encounters, behind-the-scenes visits, and "snafts" (food crafts that double as snacks).
Summer camps are also available at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park — including several overnight options.
6. The Bronx Zoo
At the famous Bronx Zoo, campers between the ages of 4 and 12 can visit daily for one or two weeks filled with animal surprises and adventures. Teens considering a wildlife-related career have the option of completing a summer internship program, which offers a "unique look at what it takes to run a world-famous zoo."
Do your kids attend summer camp? Have they ever been to a zoo camp program?