by Lauren Sutton, practicum
Wolf Park offers some very unique camps for children ages 4 to 14. Not only do the kids get to do the classic camp crafts and games, but they also get the chance to have one-of-a-kind experiences with the wolves, coyotes, foxes, and bison found at the park.
“They get to do a lot of things that normally our guests don’t get to do,” intern Carolyn Thompson said. Thompson has worked three day camps while here at Wolf Park. One of her favorite activities that one of the camps got to do was give treats to the wolves through the fences.
“The wolves had fun and the kids had fun,” she said.
Other special activities that campers get to do include changing the wolves’ water, tossing ice treats to the wolves, howling with the wolves, riding out into the bison field to give the bison apples, and watching foxes take butterscotch chips straight out of their hands.
Spending time with the animals is an exciting part of the camp, but it is not the only benefit that the children get.
“They have fun, and they also get to learn about wolves and other animals,” practicum Emily Coleman said. Coleman worked at the summer’s first overnight camp and has assisted with other camps throughout the summer.
The overnight camps coincide with the park’s Howl Night program on Saturday night and the Bison Demonstration on Sunday. These two programs on top of going on tours, watching a wolf slide show, having a special lesson about how to react around a dog you don’t know, and learning trivia (activities that every camp gets to enjoy) provide the children with a great deal of information about wolves and the environment around them.
“I really like teaching them trivia,” intern Rachel Brownell said. Brownell worked alongside Thompson during the three day camps.
At the end of each camp, a game of Wolf Jeopardy is played. Trivia that the kids have been taught throughout their stay at the park is turned into questions, and the kids compete in groups to get the most points. For the second camp that Brownell and Thompson worked, the two interns created the game’s questions, and all but one question were answered correctly.
“I enjoy the enthusiasm that most of them have to learn,” John Davis, the Children’s Education Coordinator, said.
Davis first came to Wolf Park in 1998. There had never been any type of kids’ program at the park, so three years later he started the Junior Volunteer program. Then in 2003 Davis held the park’s first overnight kids’ camp.
“It was a mess,” Davis said.
The camp combined children ages 8 to 16, an age gap much too large to accommodate everyone’s interests and abilities. Through practice, though, Davis has improved and created the camps as they are today.
Overnight camps are broken down into three age groups: 8-10, 11-12, and 13-14. Day camps, which consist of two consecutive days, are also in 3 groups: 5-7, 8-10, and 11-12. There are even a couple single day camps for four-year-olds sprinkled throughout the summer. Each camp costs $50 (except the four-year-olds’ camp, which is $25), a price that Davis is proud to say has never increased since the first camp.
“Our goal is not to make money, but to educate the kids,” Davis said.