Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger
It’s time to register for Zion Center’s Summer Nature Camps. This summer, tear your child away from the video games and Disney Channel. It’s time for some good old fashioned fresh air, hiking, discovery and lasting friendships.
The Zion center at Zionsville Parks and Recreation has all the bases covered when it comes to solving the annual dilemma of how to keep your kids entertained during summer break.
“In the sea of summer camp opportunities this program is special,” says Mindy Murdock, Zion Nature Center Manager and Park Naturalist.
With a variety of week-long camps and single-day camps for kids of all ages, parents have plenty of choices. The special thing about all the Zion Nature Center camps is that the kids spend the majority of their time outside in the park with the Nature Center staff discovering animals and plants that live in their backyards.
“Yes, they are going to get muddy, sweaty, stinky and sometimes wet,” Murdock says. “But they are going to have so much fun.”
Not only are the kids going to have fun, the staff at Zion Nature Center try to make each year’s experience unique.
“We try to change things around a little with all our camps each year,” Murdock says. “This year, we added some brand new camps to draw in new participants. There’s something unique and special about each of the camps. We develop our camps for the kids participating rather than offering canned summer camp programs. We really try and listen to the kids and what they enjoy and what doesn’t seem to hold their interest.”
Here’s a brief rundown:
Wet and Wild Day Camp:
This day camp is June 8 and is your 6-12 year old’s chance to get wet and wild while exploring all the creatures in the wetland and creak of Zion Nature Sanctuary.
Backyard Explorers Camp:
This weeklong camp runs June 19-22 and July 17-20. Four and five year olds will have a blast discovering a variety of backyard wildlife, even turtles and snakes! Note: You’ll want to register early for this one! Even with one additional session added last year, both sessions filled almost immediately with wait lists.
Nature Navigators Camp:
This camp runs June 26-30, and is a Junior Naturalists bonanza. Let your 6-8 year-old explore wetlands, discover a variety of birds and participate in a whole list of other outdoor activities.
My Grandperson and Me Day camp: Thursday, July 6, is the day for your 4-6 year-old to bring a grandparent to camp and spend a few hours exploring, and participating in a variety of activities.
“We have a lot of grandparents visiting the nature center with their grandchildren on the weekends and during yearly programs so we decided to design a camp just for that crowd,” Murdock says. “So, new this year is Grandparent and Me camp, where kids can come to camp and do all the fun camp activities alongside their grandma or grandpa.”
Nocturnal Nature Night Camp:
Running Friday, July 7, this night camp will bring out your 8-12 year-old’s inner night owl as they explore the park at dark. They’ll have a blast on a hike and end the evening at a campfire roasting marshmallows.
Bonkers for Birds Day Camp:
This camp runs Thursday, July 13, is the perfect opportunity to let your 6-12 year-old bird watcher spend a few hours exploring all about feathered friends.
Biologist Boot Camp:
This weeklong camp July 17-21 for 9-11 year-olds is for your budding scientist. Giving your child a hands on experience with actual biologists, this boot camp is a big hit.
“This camp really gets down and dirty into biology,” Murdock, says. “We do multiple projects with plants and animals including Hoosier Riverwatch, doing a snake survey and having the kids build and use their own small animal track trap. Each day of the week, we build on what we learned and explored the day before. I can’t wait to see what we uncover in the Zion Nature Sanctuary.”
Fantastic Beasts Day Camp:
This day camp runs Thursday, July 27, and gives your 6-12 year-old a wonderful opportunity to explore the forest and find all the fantastic beasts that dwell in our own backyards.
Mark your calendars, because registration opens at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 4, and you must do it in person at the Zion Nature Center. Murdock says the in-person registration makes collecting paperwork and payment more convenient and gives the staff an opportunity to answer any questions people have.
Murdock recommends to try and make it that first day of registration, especially if you are registering for Backyard Explorers. The day camps also fill up quickly, she says, with some full within the first day of registration.
To find more information, and all required forms, go to www. zionsville-in.gov/summercamps. You can also contact Mindy Murdock at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions prior to registration.
No matter which camp you choose, your child will surely have an amazing hands-on experience with all the staff who Murdock says work at the Center year-round.
“They truly are an amazing group of individuals,” Murdock says. “These are people that love what they do, love nature and love exploring and working closely with kids and families.”
Murdock also plans to be hands-on for the educational and exploration parts of the camps.
“I love exploring the wetland with the kids at any age,” she says. “I’m looking forward to this summer and getting the chance to interact with the kids and to explore and learn right next to them.”