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Thank You Camp Parents
June 10, 2012
By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo
Summer is here for us in New Orleans and Audubon’s Zoo camp has already completed week one. Last week was filled with our campers in their traditional white and pink zoo camp shirts moving in groups across the zoo. They splashed in Cool Zoo, braved the dinosaurs of the Audubon Dinosaur Adventure, climbed Monkey Hill, touched animals, fed “Betty” and “Veronica”- the camp guinea pigs, and toured the Zoo Animal Hospital.
They spent a lot of time outside, playing baseball with limited equipment and field, digging in the giant sandbox, making mud pies and even chasing monarch butterflies. It certainly seemed like a normal way to spend a summer day when school is out, or at least I thought so. On one of my trips following the campers through the zoo I passed a family on their way out. The mother looked at the campers moving towards the elephants and smiled. She turned to her eight or nine year old and said, “Look at those zoo campers. Would you like to go to camp here?” The boy didn’t hesitate and said, “No way, why would I want to spend my days outside? It’s too hot.” The mother nodded and said,”Yeah, you’re right.”
I stopped following them and looked at the zoo campers who were still happily making their way back to their classroom and I felt two emotions. First, I was very upset that a child wouldn’t want to play outdoors and then I felt an extremely strong feeling of gratitude to the hundreds of parents who chose to have their children experience nature and the outdoors for the summer. I really wanted to thank them for letting their children exercise, encounter nature, get dirty and even sweat at the Audubon Zoo.
In the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors. According to the National Wildlife Federation this shift inside has profoundly affected the health and welfare of America’s kids. Obesity rates have doubled and our kids are tuned out and stressed out. We need to make efforts to get them back outside like we did when we were kids. My mom sent us out in the morning and locked the doors until suppertime. We had to play outside. I am not recommending that parents do that, but please get them unplugged and outside.
To all the parents that made a choice to send them to Audubon Zoo camp for a week I want to sincerely thank you. Your child will remember his or her early summers playing in the sand and touching an elephant. I hope someday they will thank you themselves.