For any "Reptile Encounters" Camp, including Neonate, 8 Year Old, Junior, & Advanced Camps, this is our introductory camp. We recommend this for any child who has never attended our summer camps before. Each day they arrive to learn about a different group of animals - one day is all about lizards, one day is all about snakes, one about turtles, etc. And the best way to learn about the animals is from the animals themselves! Each day includes activities that are STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math) oriented, but these academic components are hidden within animal interactions, activities, games, and helping care for the animals. Your child's safety is of the utmost importance to us, which is why we only handle proven education animals and our counselors have received advanced training on all of these animals. We utilize observations of animals that cannot be handled so that the learning can continue even if the touching cannot. We average approximately 10 animal interactions each day, some more in depth than others. All camps are designed to be age appropriate so the Advanced Campers would be learning much more in depth and complicated information about the animals than an 8 year old would. Our counselors, again, are trained to teach to various age ranges and excel at helping children learn in many ways.
Vet Camp is designed for campers with a strong interest in veterinary medicine, possibly focusing on reptiles. Our vet camps are different though because we incorporate other rescues such as Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center & the AZ Humane Society to teach about their shelter medicine for animals other than reptiles as well. We also have a vet tech come in as a special guest to teach and work with the campers one day and throughout the week, the campers learn about our medical and high needs animals and even get to help take care of them! Don't worry, they won't be doing surgery on any animals, but they could be giving it a special soak, assisting it shed, applying medicine, or assisting the counselor with the more challenging tasks. We also do a necropsy in the Advanced Vet Camp, where we first dissect a rodent to discuss mammal anatomy. Then we will perform a necropsy on an animal that passed away such as a ball python to explore the internal anatomy of a reptile and compare it to the mammal they previously dissected. The campers always wear protective gear and must follow PHS safety protocols, which are thoroughly explained prior to any dissection. If a camper is uncomfortable or does not want to participate in the necropsy or dissection, they do not have to; we have alternative activities they can participate in instead. By the end of vet camp, campers will have done case studies, examined live animals of all types, learned about wildlife and how we study populations of wild animals and health concerns they may have, and more. It is fun and interactive, and perfect for the child who "wants to be a vet when they grow up"! Junior campers do not do the actual dissections, but do complete a virtual dissection on the iPad so that they can still learn about the internal anatomy, but electronically instead of real life.
Snake Camp is an opportunity to learn everything serpentine! Again, all activities and concepts covered are age appropriate and aligned with STEAM. Campers will learn about how snakes become such an important part of the reptile pet trade, which ones are legal and illegal to own, and even the symbolic significance of snakes throughout human history (there's more than Adam & Eve - there are some myths, legends, and beliefs that snakes are sacred!). They'll also learn about the four families of snakes, which ones are venomous, what kind of venom they have, and much more! But don't worry; it's not all lecture and "book-learning". They do activities and experiments to re-enact how venom would affect blood (using common kitchen items - no real blood or venom involved!), investigate the internal and external anatomy of a snake, and will investigate prehistoric and endangered snakes. This is the perfect camp for a child who loves snakes and wants to become a "snake expert"!
Turtle Camp is a chance for campers to learn about some of the incredible diversity and adaptations of these dinosaur-like creatures. Again, aligned with STEAM and developed for Junior Campers only, they learn about the different scales on the shells, why tortoises change size according to how close to the Equator they are, endangered turtles, and much more! They'll have an entire day dedicated to sea turtles and investigate their diversity, threats to their continued existence, and what they can do to help. Of course there will be fun arts and crafts activities, hands-on interactions, special feeding opportunities, and they will even "interview" an extinct turtle to become a real turtle scientist!
Croc Camp is only available to Advanced Campers who have attended at least one Advanced Reptile Encounters camp before because of how in-depth we get and because of the types of animals we focus on in this camp. Campers will not only learn about the differences between crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials, but also why they look different and why they are found in different places in the world. They'll learn which ones are the "man-eaters", which are endangered, and what various governments are doing to help those species. They even get to participate in feeding our "nursery" crocodilians, learn about proper handling protocols and procedures (don't worry - the mouths of the crocs are always humanely taped before the kids ever even touch them), and especially about our unique alligator - the only one in the world with a prosthetic tail - Mr. Stubbs! They'll get to learn about his upcoming new tail, come up with ideas of their own, and meet some of the researchers working with him and other special needs crocs at our facility. This is meant to be an intense and fun camp with some incredible memories and experiences and is one where respect to the counselor, researchers, guests, PHS staff, and most of all the animals is extremely important. If possible, we will conduct a necropsy/dissection and again if the camper does not want to participate, they can partake in an alternative activity.