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The Impact of Zoo Camp During COVID-19

Zoo Camp During COVID-19

August 17, 2020

As a working parent of a school-aged child, I have a keen appreciation for those who engage young children in activities, learning and who do so in a safe manner. My son has always been a fan of the Blank Park Zoo in Greater Des Moines (DSM). He may very well hold the record for number of train rides in a single day. He knows the names of all of the giraffes, rhinos and lions, and most of the staff knows him. As you can imagine, he was sad when it was clear that COVID-19 would impact his beloved Zoo Camp, otherwise known as Safari Camp. From the start, the Zoo had communicated regularly and clearly about what they knew, what changes would be put into place and how things would move forward. But they didn't stop there. Zoo staff innovated and, even better, enhanced zoo experiences.

Virtual Safari Camp

There were a few weeks where I was not comfortable sending my son to camp. Enter Blank Park Zoo's Virtual Camp! We got to log in and participate in a virtual session and interactive dialogue with Zoo staff. Perhaps even more exciting than that is the Virtual Camp Materials Box that we picked up prior to class. It was full of jars, small plastic creatures, food coloring, markers, a paper plate strings and a small workbook outlining the week's activities. As a result, we had a fabulous week creating and exploring Ocean Week from home.

Back to the Zoo

We did venture back to in-person Zoo Camp last week. Blank Park Zoo has implemented curbside drop-off and pick-up, health screening of each zoo camper, plenty of protocols within the zoo itself and a new app for communicating with parents, as well as sharing photos and updates on what the kiddos explored that day.

Each step of the way, the Zoo team has been kind, welcoming, understanding, thoughtful and has further cemented their role in our lives as not only a wonderful quality of life venue here in DSM, but also as a special place in my son's heart.

Find more information on virtual events at the Zoo in 2020 here or updated hours and admission information here.

If interested in learning more about how the Zoo is moving forward during the COVID-19 pandemic, attend this Greater Des Moines Partnership virtual seminar next month.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.

Meg Schneider

Meg Schneider is a member of the Forbes Nonprofit Council, an invitation-only organization for senior-level executives in successful nonprofit organizations.