Summer is right around the corner and soon parents will have to find ways to keep their children preoccupied until the leaves start falling off the trees again.

The Phoenix Zoo has the answer offering weekly summer camps for children who are interested in learning about animals and meeting new friends.

The camp will be offered to kids entering kindergarten through eighth grade.

Participants can choose two options when signing up, consisting of eight weeks of full days from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., or half days from 8 a.m. to noon.

While the campers attend Zoo Camp they will be able to participate in fun, educational activities designed to educate them about zoo life.

The campers will gain knowledge about nature with small animals, basic care giving, art project and some action projects.

Dean Watanabe, school and family program supervisor, said the camps are based on different animal focus every week, and the camp offers an extended daycare at the end of the day.

“Throughout the day the kids will do all sorts of different activities that relate to the animal focus of that week, so it can be from a hike around the zoo or behind the scene stuff with animals,” Watanabe said. “There is a portion that we focus on different animals to let the kids know what makes some animals different from others, and also trying to make a connection between the kids and the animals so they have something they can remember for a long time.”

Being that Phoenix does have intense heat waves during the summer the camp is designed to keep the kids away from the beating sun.

Watanabe said the zoo has a few water play areas that will cool the campers down from the heat, and each camp has an air-conditioned home base.

He added that the camp is a really fun experience where kids can meet new friends, while exploring the world around them and getting in touch with nature.

“The camp is different from what kids are doing in school or anywhere else. They pretty much get to have the zoo to themselves, which is pretty cool for them,” Watanabe said. “Also parents get the benefit from having their kids occupied throughout the summer, and they get to see how much their kids learn throughout the camp.”

For more information about Camp Zoo at the Phoenix Zoo or registration, visit their website at www.phoenixzoo.org.

• Daniel Ochoa is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.

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