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Summer Zoo Camp


Summer Zoo Camp 2021 Registration begins Feb 1st for Zoo members and Feb 8th for non-members.

Click here to read about our Covid Safety Modifications.

Zoo Conservation Club Members receive a 10% discount on all camps.

Not yet a member? Sign up for our new Conservation Club membership today!

Come and spend the summer at our inquiry-focused Summer Zoo Camp! Campers enjoy special animal experiences and behind-the-scenes opportunities while facing scientific challenges that put the campers in the shoes of keepers, vets, or zoo administrators and motivate campers to seek the information to solve real-life problems. In alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards, campers engage in the scientific process of observation, scientific reasoning, and engineering design to build solutions to real-life problems. Campers leave Zoo Camp with a greater awareness for the individual animals at the zoo and how to help animals in the wild, all while building their science skills and making new friends. 

Camp Age Groups
Kinderfari – 4 and 5 years old
Explorers – 6 and 7 years old
Scouts – 8 to 10 years old
Jr. Zookeepers – 11 to 13 years old

Camp Hours
Drop off: 8:00-8:30 a.m.
Kinderfari camp (4-5 year olds): 8:30-11:30 a.m.
Explorers, Scouts, and Jr. Zookeeper camps: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Pick up: 3:30-4:00 p.m.
Aftercare (optional – $8 daily): 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Camp Prices
Kinderfari camp: $195
Explorers, Scouts, and Jr. Zookeeper camps: $335
**Henry Vilas Zoo Members at the Family level or above receive a 10% discount

Zoo Camp FAQ

How much time do campers spend with the animals and behind the scenes?

This is the heart of the Zoo Camp experience! Each day, campers will have an opportunity to step into the role of the zookeepers: putting out food for an animal or helping to prep an animal enclosure for the day. At least once each day, campers get to see or touch an animal up close. We also focus on investigating the real life challenges zoo staff and vets face. Campers will have opportunities to build their teamwork skills as they complete our science challenges.

What does a typical day at Zoo Camp look like?

  • Campers are welcomed with some games or activities while everyone arrives.
  • Small group bonding activities start the day.
  • Some days campers do a “keeper chore” to help the keepers set up for the day.
  • The challenge of the day is revealed. The group comes up with questions and suggestions for which animals to observe.
  • Campers explore the zoo to make observations that will help them solve the challenge.
  • Meet an animal up close or go into an enclosure to learn more.
  • Lunch offers a chance to eat, relax, or play at the playground (campers must bring their own lunch).
  • After lunch, campers discuss solutions to their scientific challenges and work together to design or build a model to solve the problem they have been working on.
  • The afternoon continues with thematic activities, games, and often another up-close animal encounter, before wrapping up and reflecting on the day.
  • Campers who are pre-registered for the extended day have a snack (provided by camp) and more time to explore the zoo, play at the zoo playground, or play games together.

Why are the science challenges used to shape the camp experience?

With easy access to information online, teaching children how to approach a novel challenge is more effective than telling them animal facts. Our instructors build on campers’ innate curiosity by encouraging them to carry out scientific investigations. The challenges also create natural teamwork situations that bring groups together and are lots of fun!

What kind of science challenges are you talking about?

We work with the kind of challenges zoo staff and scientists are faced with everyday, such as:

  • What kinds of food should we feed the animals?
  • What should we add to the enclosure to encourage natural behaviors?
  • How do we design the best habitat for an animal?
  • How do we care for an injured animal?
  • What new inventions can we create by studying animals?

At Zoo Camp, we use age-appropriate scenarios based on real life. The campers then have room to observe, wonder, and come up with their own solutions – some of which we can actually put into place at the zoo!

Will it feel fresh and new to attend more than one session of Zoo Camp?

Yes! We have different themes throughout the summer, with different animal encounters, and a new challenge and science investigations. The process of asking questions and carrying out new investigations feels fresh each time.

What are the themes this year?

Look for descriptions of our new themes to be released in January 2021!

What is the adult-to-child ratio?

We keep our group sizes small. Explorers, Scouts, and Jr. Zookeeper camps are limited to twelve children with two adults. Kinderfari camps are limited to ten children with two adults.

What group do I sign my child up for?

We group our sessions by age. If you don’t see a session that works for you, please call or email us to discuss if it would be a good fit to sign your child up for a younger or older camp. We are willing to make exceptions if everyone thinks it will be a good fit. Email: or call 608-283-1610.

What is your cancellation policy?

All purchases are final. Henry Vilas Zoo does not provide any refunds for apparel or programs unless the program is canceled by the Zoo. If you choose to cancel your registration, you may receive a partial credit to use on any other program or educational tour at the Zoo.

Cancellations more than two weeks prior to the program receive 50% credit to be used on other zoo education programs.

Cancellations less than two weeks prior to the program do not receive a credit or refund.

All cancellations must be made via email to

Questions about Zoo Camp? 

Email the Education Department at