Oakland Zoo Camp


Parent Q&A

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  • My son LOVES the zoo, but has never been to a full day summer camp. He is a pretty cautious child and doesn't usually immediately feel comfortable jumping into new situations with people he's not familiar with. I'm wondering if anyone can tell me if you think summer camp at Oakland Zoo might be an okay fit for him or not. Most recent reviews I'm seeing are from 2011 - anyone have kids this age who have attended more recently?

    thank you

    My stepson went to that camp-also his first camp experience-and had a really good time. This was a few years ago when he was in the summer before kindergarten (he is now in 2nd grade). 

    He was a really standoffish kid, both in terms of other kids and activities, back then and the camp was just the right speed. He did have a buddy from preschool attending with him. He still keeps their name tags from that camp. 

    My son had a great time at his first time in zoo camp as an incoming Kindergartner, and he is an anxious kid (though you wouldn't know it because he gets into fight instead of flight mode).  He had such a great time that he has begged to come back again this summer and I've signed him up for 3 weeks this time!  They are really great with the kids.

Parent Reviews

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

April 2011

I would like to see more reviews of the summer camp at the Oakland Zoo. It's now a full-day camp (9-4). One past review said that bees at lunch were a big problem (kids getting stung every day!). I'd appreciate hearing about any other experiences people have had. My 7-year-old daughter loves being active, loves animals, and likes to learn fairly advanced information about veterinary care. Thanks for any info.

Both of my children attended zoo camp for a couple years when they were in the pre-k - 5th grade range. They had a great experience, the content was age appropriate for the group they were in, they were able to get very comfortable with the zoo and the program is extremely well organized. It is not high-level animal contact or care, but it is a fabulous location with environmental education that is actionable for kids. Maggie

My daughter attended Zoo Camp 2 yrs ago. Maybe if your kid REALLY wants all zoo all the time it would work. I felt like it was a lot about 'zoo' and there was not much sensitivity to kids' emotional lives or teambuilding. The weirdest thing was that each group was named/themed after an animal, and the head counselor of the group went by the name of the animal. The kids were not allowed to know the real name of the counselor until the end of camp. Another problem I had was that the theme of my kid's age group (then 1st grade) was 'predators and prey', with waaaay too much detail about how animals kill other animals. The counselors considered themselves 'teachers', which meant that there wasn't the fun-affectionate element I consider crucial to summer camp. They did fun singing, but otherwise it was more like 'school at the zoo'. Former Zoo Camp Mom

My daughter has gone to zoo camp every year for the past 4 years. From entering K to entering 4th this year. It is one of her all-time favorite camps, and it's one of the few from her younger years that she still wants to go to this year. The counselors are great and have a lot of fun with the kids, from camp-wide songs (including the Friday afternoon sing-along), teaching about animals and environmental responsibility.

I think you asked about bees--I have never heard of anybody ever getting stung by a bee, and my daughter would definitely report that back to me. THey do actively discourage sugary foods and juices in lunches, and I think they say it's to keep the bees away. We've also been zoo members for the past 8 years, and have never actually seen a bee either while visiting the zoo or while doing one of their member activities like Zoo Night, where hundreds of families are having picnics on the lawn, so I think they manage the bees actively.

The kids get to ride the train, see some behind-the-scenes activities, etc. There are usually 2 ''themes'' plus ''nature play'' to choose from. I hear many kids love nature play, but my daughter didnt' enjoy that one. The poster who thought it was shocking that the counselors go by animal names has a different opinion than me and my daughter (who thinks it's cool, and it helps them remember the counselors from year to year and compare notes w/ friends who went to diff sessions). I also find that they are wide open to suggestions, including--as the other poster might have benefitted from--paying more attn to a sensitive kid. That said, I wouldn't have done the entering K program again, just b/c it was 9-1130, or barely enough time to get your shopping done, and nearly impossible for working parents.

My only real complaint is the dropoff procedure, especially the first day, where they expect everyone to arrive w/in a 5 minute window, and you all have to park, and I think it's disrespectful to parents and unrealistic (I think they just don't want to pay their counselors an extra 1/2 hr). And I think they should do a better job of policing the bad drivers in a hurry in the parking lot, though they at least had a security guy out there the first few days last year.

Bottom line, my kid LOVES zoo camp. janet

April 2008

A friend and I are thinking about signing up our 4 year old's for the Oakland Zoo's summer camp, but don't know anyone who's gone. Can anyone please tell about your experience with this camp? Thanks!

My daughter loved zoo camp last year, and it's the one camp that she definitely wanted to go back to this year! She was in the kindergarten program, which was only half a day (honestly a little problematic for us working parents, and I've suggested that it might be ok for them to extend it to 3pm, with an option of ending at noon). but for 1/2 day you drop them off at 9 and pick them up at 12, and you don't get a lot of free time yourself. It's possible that part of my daughter's love of zoo camp was that she didn't go to the after care program, and a group of us just took turns taking the kids after school, but she also really loved the activities: singing songs, crafts, seeing the animals, learning about them (she still talks about the things she learned), and I think they all got to ride the train at some point too. Some kids want to keep going to zoo camp forever, but I also know of some kids who weren't interested. I think if your kid likes to be outdoors, enjoys songs and activities with a group (I think the groups are about 8 kids each), and enjoys animals, you'd probably like the zoo camp. If you're a member it's also cheaper (and you get a discount for the 2nd week if you go for 2), so if you're thinking of goign you might want to join--I should also add that our zoo membership seems like one of the best we've got, and we go all the time-sometimes jsut for an hour. janet

March 2003

Anyone have any thoughts on the Oakland Zoo's camp program, in general, or specifically for a 6 year old? I'd love to hear feedback, as I hear the enrollment fills rapidly! Thanks - Carrie

My kids have had mixed feelings about Oakland zoo camp. For one, it is ridiculously inconvenient - only offering half-day sessions. By the time you drop off your child, you have about an hour before you have to turn around and pick them up. The thing my kids complained about the most was battling the many bees during lunchtime. There were kids who were stung every day at lunch. The activities were ''OK'' and the only thing they liked was being able to go on the rides before the general public. There are Better Options

My daughter loved Zoo Camp when she was in the 5- 9 age. Her only complaint was that it was hot, temperatures were high those summers. Zoo Camp does fill up quickly. Mine had a better time when she signed up and went with a friend.