Kids can enjoy an adventure on the wild side this summer in an award-winning, hands-on camp at the Ecomuseum. Through activities ranging from prepping meals for bears to creating a butterfly garden, the program aims to reconnect kids between the ages of 5 and 15 with nature.
In October, the camp was recognized for the strength of its educational programming by a jury of industry experts at a national conference for accredited zoos and aquariums. The Ecomuseum was selected for the prestigious Eleonore Oakes Award, which honours outstanding achievement in the field of animal care.
Executive Director David Rodrigue said that in 2017, the program was overhauled to allow more time for tangible learning experiences, creating a memorable, hands-on experience for kids.
For example, instead of just telling kids that insects are pollinators, staff show kids how to improve a habitat favourable for butterflies in their butterfly garden. Kids also participate in a research plan, such as helping with a snake count in the wild, measuring snakes and logging the information. Children also get to use professional equipment, such as a radio telemetry system that tracks animals from a distance.
All campers start their day by learning about Quebec’s ecosystem. Recently, the Ecomuseum has allotted more time for play and the staff has seen an improvement in children’s levels of concentration and ability to pay attention.
The children also go on excursions to the Morgan Arboretum, where they can observe animal and insect behaviour outside the zoo.
Sonia-Élaine Paradis has been sending her four boys to the camp since the age of 6. She says it was the family-friendly atmosphere and the unique insight into the hidden parts of the zoo that piqued her interest. “The kids love learning about nature and feeling like they’re doing something to help,” she says.
In their years at camp, the Paradis children, now between the ages of 11 and 18, have learned how to build bird nests, interact with animals and become keen observers of nature.
Paradis recalls her children often telling her about activities they did during the day, such as learning how to prep meals for the bears by cutting all the vegetables and bringing them to their habitats. They also played other fun games, such as building nests with branches and other objects.
The Ecomuseum’s summer camps will run from July 2 to Aug. 24.
For more information, visit zooecomuseum.ca.