Zoo Camp: Frequently Asked Questions


Thanks for your interest in Zoo Camp! We understand that our guests have many questions about the ins and outs of Zoo Camp. Below you will find the answers to our most popular questions. 

Registration, Cancellation & Refund Policies


What are the Camper requirements?

In an effort to provide the most meaningful, positive, and appropriate experience at Zoo Camp we require that all campers be able to do the following:

- Follow simple directions and be able communicate their interests and needs.
- Willing to spend the week outdoors and participate in group activities.
- Administer any personal medications without camp counselor assistance.
- Fully and independently manage basic self-care skills like eating and toileting or come to camp with an adult (18+) assistant to aid with these tasks.
- Follow all Brookfield Zoo safety policies as outlined here.

If you have questions regarding the camper requirements please call us at 708-688-8342 or e-mail us at adventuresinlearning@czs.org to see if we are able to meet your camper’s needs before registering.


How do I Register?

Registration is available online. To view the Zoo Camp summer schedule and to register, visit www.czs.org/camp and click Register Now! A couple helpful hints:

1. Before selecting your Zoo Camp dates be sure they don’t conflict with any other summer plans! Camps fill quickly and we may not always be able to accommodate rescheduling your Camper to another session.

2. We do have a waitlist option in case your preferred session is filled. Joining the waitlist does not guarantee a spot at Zoo Camp and you will only be contacted in the event that a spot becomes available. Available spots will be offered to all waitlisted individuals and registration will be on a first-come-first-served basis.

3. Make sure your Brookfield Zoo membership is current before you register. Members may save up to 25% on Camp registration! To renew your membership, visit www.czs.org/membership. We are unable to apply membership discounts on Camp registration retroactively.


How many Zoo Camp sessions can I sign up for?

Zoo Camp is offered in one week sessions. We encourage you to sign up for multiple Zoo Camp sessions! Each week is unique and filled with a variety of experiences. We have three themes per level that rotate during the summer. To view a schedule of our weekly themes, please click here.


May I enroll my PreZoo camper in both morning and afternoon camp sessions?

We discourage enrolling your PreZoo camper in both morning and afternoon sessions for several important reasons. We have found that our youngest campers get the most out of Zoo Camp in half-day sessions as we are unable to offer nap or rest periods at Zoo Camp. Additionally, the morning activities may be repeated in the afternoon. If your camper is enrolled for both morning and afternoon sessions you would need to pick up your Camper at the end of the morning session, 12:00, and drop off your Camper again at 1:00. The are no counselors available from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. to watch your camper as this is their lunch and planning period.


Can I enroll my child in a different level of Camp than his/her current grade?

Zoo Camp is proudly accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA) and abides by the ACA’s high standards for curriculum and Camper-to-Counselor ratios. We are confident that we have created the most fun and age-appropriate curriculum for each of our levels of Zoo Camp and our experience has been that Campers thrive best when they are interacting with other kids their age. Additionally, because our Camper-to-Counselor ratios are based on the set grades of each level of Camp, we are unable to enroll a Camper in Camp level outside of his/her grade level. Our Zoo Camp levels are:

PreZoo – For Campers age 4 or 5 who have not yet completed Kindergarten.

Discovery – For Campers who have completed Kindergarten or 1st grade during the 2016-2017 school year.

Explorer – For Campers who have completed 2nd or 3rd grade during the 2016-2017 school year.

Adventure – For Campers who have completed 4th or 5th grade during the 2016-2017 school year.

ZooLab – For Campers who have completed 6th, 7th, or 8th grade during the 2016-2017 school year.
 


Can my child attend Zoo Camp with a friend or relative?

During registration you will be given an opportunity to request a friend for your child to be grouped with. We can only guarantee one friend request per week and any number of friends over this amount may not be honored due to space needs and staffing requirements. We always encourage Zoo Campers to make new friends at Camp!

Friend requests must be in the same level and week of Camp to be honored. Please see “Can I enroll my child in a different level of Camp than his/her current grade?” above.


Can I drop my Camper off earlier than 9:00 a.m.? Can I pick them up later than 3:30 p.m.?

We have early drop off available for full day and morning Campers Tuesdays through Fridays for $10/day/Camper. You may drop your Camper(s) off as early as 8:00 a.m. on these days. Due to first-day check-in, there is no early drop off on Mondays. There is no early drop off for afternoon Campers.

You may also pick up your full day and afternoon Campers as late as 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday for $15/day/Camper. There is no late pick up on Fridays. Pick up after 5:00 p.m. or after 3:30 p.m. on Fridays will result in additional late fees. Pick up after 12:00 p.m. for half-day morning Campers will result in late fees.


How do you handle sick campers?

Campers with contagious illnesses, vomiting, or a fever will be send home and should not return to Zoo Camp for 24 hours after the symptoms have passed. In the event that Camper becomes ill, it is the responsibility of the parent/guardian to pick up their child from Zoo Camp immediately.


What is your cancellation and refund policy?

The following policies are in place because making Zoo Camp the best possible experience it can be requires months of planning, preparation, and investment of staff resources. Upon making a reservation, we reserve a space for your child. In doing so, we are barring others from signing up as we have limited space available. A non-refundable and non-transferrable deposit is applied at the time of reservation ($50 for each half day camp, $100 for each full day camp).

Refunds are available, minus the deposit fee, prior to May 1st. Campers may be rescheduled to a different camp session, presuming available space, with a $25 processing fee per child, per session. After May 1st, refunds and rescheduling are no longer possible.

Zoo Camp participants that do not show up for their registered session or choose to leave early on one or more Zoo Camp days will not be granted a refund. All Camps have a strict limited capacity and cannot be exceeded. Registration will close promptly 14 calendar days prior to the start of week of each camp or once capacity is met, whichever comes first.

We reserve the right to dismiss a child from Zoo Camp who does not meet the Camper requirements, has false information on their registration or health form, or a Camper that continues to misbehave after behavior interventions, without a refund. In these extremely rare instances, it is the responsibility of the parent/guardian to pick up their child from Zoo Camp immediately.

To avoid any confusion or misunderstandings, all refund or rescheduling requests must be in writing and sent to adventuresinlearning@czs.org. Please include in your email your name, the camp you are asking to cancel, your original order number, your phone number, and your camper's namePlease click here to view more details about our cancellation and refund policy.


Can I reschedule my Zoo Camp session to a different week?

Due to the popularity of Zoo Camp, all rescheduling must be done no later than May 1st. Please keep in mind that Camps fill quickly and we may not always be able to accommodate rescheduling your Camper to another session.

To avoid any confusion or misunderstandings, all refund or rescheduling requests must be in writing and sent to adventuresinlearning@czs.org. Please include in your email your name, the camp you are asking to cancel, your original order number, your phone number, and your camper's name. Please note there is a $25 processing fee (per camper, per camp session) to reschedule. 


What if my Camper needs to leave the zoo during the Camp?

Please tell your Counselors at check-in if you know of an early departure so they can make arrangements with you for pick up. If you are unable to pre-arrange an early pick up, please call the Camp Supervisor at 708-688-8418 who will be able to get in touch with your Camper’s group. There are no refunds due to early departures.


What if my Camper needs to arrive late during Camp?

Please tell your Counselors at check-out the day before if you know of a late arrival so they can make arrangements with you for drop off. If you are unable to pre-arrange a late drop off, please call the Camp Supervisor at 708-688-8418 who will be able to get in touch with your Camper’s group. There are no refunds due to late drop offs.

Preparing for Zoo Camp

Is there any paperwork I need to fill out before coming to Camp?

Yes! One week prior to your Camp session you will receive a reminder e-mail with details on what to expect from Camp, where to park, your Camper’s group assignment, and a Zoo map. Please watch for this e-mail to arrive from adventuresinlearning@czs.org. We suggest adding this address to your trusted contacts list to ensure that you receive all pertinent communications.

Also contained in this e-mail is a copy of a Medical Waiver that needs to be completed by the Camper’s parent and/or guardian. You must bring this Medical Waiver with you on the first day of Camp. Failure to provide a completed Medical Waiver may result in your Camper being unable to participate in Camp. You can also download a copy of the Medical Waiver here.


What should my child bring to Camp every day?

- Wear their Zoo Camp t-shirt
- Wear comfortable shoes – gym shoes are best!
- Backpack
- Water bottle
- Sun screen (which they must be able to apply themselves)
- Full-day Campers must bring a lunch if lunch was not purchased during registration. Purchasing lunch at the Zoo restaurants is not an option.
- Snack (optional—snacks are provided, but Campers are welcome to bring their own)

Please note: Counselors cannot apply sunscreen or bug spray to Zoo Campers. If you choose to, please apply sun screen and bug spray before you arrive. You may send extra sunscreen and bug spray, but participants must be able to apply it themselves.
 


What should my child not bring to Camp?

Zoo Campers should not bring electronic games, tablets, or MP3 players as electronic devices detract from the benefits of being in a natural environment.

Cell phones are allowed but they must remain off during Camp. Campers should also avoid bringing jewelry or other irreplaceable items. These things can be stored in a safe place and sent home with the Camper at the end of the day if needed. However, if these items are left on zoo property, we are not responsible for loss or damage.

Please do not send money with Zoo Campers as they are not permitted to purchase any items from concession stands or gift shops. Of course, you may purchase items after you pick up your Camper(s).

Zoo Campers should not bring sporting equipment, weapons, drugs, or alcohol. If this occurs, parents will be contacted for immediate dismissal and pick up without a refund.


What should my Zoo Camper wear?

On the first day of Camp, all participants will receive one Zoo Camp shirt. Additional shirts can be purchased online as well as on the first day of Camp. Each additional shirt is $10.00. Please have the Zoo Camper wear this shirt every day.

Campers should come to the zoo ready to explore the outdoors and that sometimes means getting messy or wet. We recommend that campers wear clothes that can get wet and/or dirty. We also ask only comfortable shoes like sneakers or boots are worn as there is often a lot of outdoor activities and walking. Zoo Camp runs in rain or shine, so please take into consideration the weather forecast and dress your Zoo Camper appropriately.

We strive to provide a caring and respectful Zoo Camp experience, so we all wear clothing that has graphics and words respectful of a family environment and of appropriate length. Final authority on all attire appropriateness lies with the Zoo Camp administration.


Can I send my Camper with food or beverages?

Yes! If you did not purchase lunch during registration, please plan to send a packed lunch with your full-day Camper Monday through Thursday; light snacks are provided. On Fridays, all full-day Campers enjoy cheese pizza and pop. Half-day Campers do not eat lunch but light snacks are provided for no charge all week. Your Camper is welcome to bring their own snack if they prefer.

All Campers should bring a water bottle every day.

Note about allergies: If your child has any food allergies, you may contact us at adventuresinlearning@czs.org for a list of snacks and their ingredients. You may also read more about our allergy and medication policy and protocol under the FAQ “What if my child has allergies?” You are always welcome to send your own snacks as well.
 


My Camper requires a special accommodation – who can I speak to?

Brookfield Zoo Camp provides an inclusive environment for Campers with and without disabilities. We believe that the inclusive environment at Zoo Camp provides an opportunity for Campers to explore, learn, and connect with animals and nature in more meaningful ways. We will gladly do our best to fulfill any special accommodations to make your child’s Camp experience as pleasant and fun as possible. During the Zoo Camp registration process, please note any extra support or special needs your child has. You may also call the Education Hotline at (708) 688-8342 Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to speak with a representative or e-mail us any time at adventuresinlearning@czs.org.


What if my child has allergies?

If your child has any food allergies, you may contact us at adventuresinlearning@czs.org for a list of snacks and their ingredients. You are also welcome to send your Camper with his/her own snacks as well.

We very commonly have Campers who have peanut, tree nut, and/or other allergies attend Zoo Camp without incident. The Camp Counselors receive this information prior to the start of the week so they are aware of the needs of all of their Campers. For lunch time, Counselors make sure to have a “Peanut Free” area to ensure the safety of those Campers with allergies. Our pizza on Friday, for full day campers, is purchased from a peanut-free facility. Our Campers have access to restrooms to also wash their hands before and after eating.

Campers do have some contact with animals during their time at Camp whose diets may contain allergens. An animal Keeper is always present during these encounters and will be able to advise specifically about what the animal eats.

Campers are welcome to carry their own Epipen, but it is important to note that our Counselors are not authorized to administer an Epipen because we have fully licensed paramedics onsite every day who carry Epipens for such emergencies. All of our Counselors are trained to recognize the signs of an anaphylactic reaction and are equipped with a radio to contact our paramedics directly in case of an emergency. Once the radio call has been placed, the typical response time is less than 1 minute.

Our Counselors are trained to—and have experience working with—many children who have severe allergies in the past. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Education department Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 708-688-8342 or via e-mail at adventuresinlearning@czs.org.


Can I pick up my Camper's T-shirt before Camp starts?

Yes! We host an “Early Check-In” day in May in which you are invited to come pick up your Camper’s shirt(s) and backpack, purchase additional Camp gear, meet some of our counselors, check out cool animal artifacts, and of course ask any questions you have about Zoo Camp!

These events are completely optional but please note that if you do not attend an Early Check-In event, we are not able to provide your Camp shirts or backpacks until your Camper’s first day of Camp.

Zoo Camper Life

What do the Camp activities include?

Zoo Camp provides a unique experience for making new friends, having fun, learning, teaching responsibility, creating independence and decision making skills, as well as connecting participants to the natural world. Campers will enjoy spending the week visiting our exhibits and attractions throughout the park and connecting to the week’s theme. They will have opportunities to participate in exclusive Zoo Camp experiences that may include Zoo Chats with keepers and up close encounters with animals. Additionally, Campers will enjoy traditional summer Camp activities like hikes, songs, crafts, games, and more!

All Zoo Camp activities are subject to change due to weather, instructor, and zoo keeper availability, as well as animals rotating on/off exhibit at Brookfield Zoo. Because of these variables, please note that though there may be opportunities for close contact with animals, such experiences cannot be guaranteed.


What are your bathroom policies?

All Zoo Campers* must be fully potty-trained and need no assistance when using the restroom. If Campers are not potty-trained or require verbal or physical assistance of any kind, we reserve the right to send the Camper home immediately and without a refund.

*Campers who are unable to meet this camper requirement fully and independently can attend camp with an adult (18 or older) assistant to aid in these tasks. Please let us know if your child will be attending camp with an assisting adult. 

When in public restrooms, we follow the rule of three: a Zoo Camper is always accompanied by two camp counselors or one camp counselor and one other Zoo Camper. Children are allowed to enter the restroom alone if it is a Zoo Camp area only or is a single restroom.

Bathroom and water breaks are taken frequently throughout the day.


How many Campers and Counselors are in a group?

We are able to accommodate 200 Campers every week! We are proudly accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA) and abide strictly by their Camper-to-Counselor ratios, which are as follows:

PreZoo – Minimum of two (2) Counselors for every twelve (12) Campers.
Discovery – Minimum of two (2) Counselors for every sixteen (16) Campers
Explorer – Minimum of two (2) Counselors for every sixteen (16) Campers
Adventure – Minimum of two (2) Counselors for every sixteen (16) Campers
ZooLab – Minimum of two (2) Counselors for every twenty (20) Campers

One week prior to your Camp session you will receive a reminder e-mail with your group assignment and where you will check-in to meet your group and Counselors every day. Please watch for this e-mail to arrive from adventuresinlearning@czs.org. We suggest adding this address to your trusted contacts list to ensure that you receive all pertinent communications.


Will lunches and/or snacks be provided for Zoo Campers?

Half-day Campers do not eat lunch during Camp but do have a light snack.

Purchase: Lunch for the week can be purchased at the time of registration for $30. The lunches include a sandwich, fruit or cookies, chips, and a juice box. The sandwich is the same every day and we offer 5 sandwich options:
- Turkey on white bread
- Turkey on wheat bread
- Cheese on white bread
- Cheese on wheat bread
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Uncrustables®

Note: In order to have enough supplies, lunch orders must be purchased in advance.

Or

Pack: You may also choose to send your child to Camp with lunch. If you choose to send lunch, please note that your child will need to carry their lunch with them (all Zoo Campers receive a complimentary Zoo Camp backpack) as we do not have refrigeration.

Snacks: A light snack will be provided every day for no charge. Your Camper is welcome to bring their own snack if they prefer.

Pizza Fridays! As always, all full-day Campers (regardless if they purchased lunch from the Zoo or not) will have cheese pizza and pop on Fridays.

Note about allergies: If your child has any food allergies, you may contact us at adventuresinlearning@czs.org for a list of snacks and their ingredients. You may also read more about our allergy and medication policy and protocol under the FAQ “What if my child has allergies?” You are always welcome to send your own snacks or lunches as well.

About Zoo Camp Staff

Can you tell me more about the Zoo Camp staff?

All Zoo Camp Counselor staff are 18 or older and have experience working with children in both formal and informal education settings. All Zoo Camp staff must pass an interview screening, background check, as well as participate in staff training and review sessions. These standards are required by Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) and the American Camp Association (ACA).

Many of our Zoo Camp Counselors are previous Brookfield Zoo Youth Volunteers and have progressed through a career ladder to become staff members.


How are Counselors assigned to the Campers?

We are proudly accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA) and abide by their Camper-to-Counselor ratios, which are as follows:

PreZoo – Minimum of two (2) Counselors for every twelve (12) Campers.
Discovery – Minimum of two (2) Counselors for every sixteen (16) Campers
Explorer – Minimum of two (2) Counselors for every sixteen (16) Campers
Adventure – Minimum of two (2) Counselors for every sixteen (16) Campers
ZooLab – Minimum of two (2) Counselors for every twenty (20) Campers


How does Zoo Camp handle discipline?

At Zoo Camp, we believe that prevention is the key to good behavior. Our Camp levels, themes, choices, and Camper requirements are designed to help make developmentally appropriate programing which helps reduce behavior issues.

We recognize that not all behavior issues can be prevented. We address each situation considering the campers skills, developmental stage, and the situation. Zoo Camp staff members set realistic expectations for Campers to maintain the health and safety of all children in the program. To promote positive behavior, emphasis is placed on guidance into constructive activities while adequate time is allowed for free choice and self-expression.

Some of the methods we use to manage behavior issues may include discussions of undesired actions/behavior, modeling appropriate behavior, brief time-outs, visual and verbal warnings,  switching groups, behavior rewards systems, removing the stressor, shortening activity time,  or earning or removal of privileges. We also are happy to discuss pre-established Behavior Management Plans (BMP) if your child uses this in a school or recreational setting to manage behavior.

In the event of a repeat problem, parents/guardians will be contacted for a phone conference to give guidance and establish mutually agreeable solutions for their child’s behavior.

We rarely send Zoo Campers home for disciplinary reasons, but if the child’s behavior is repeatedly abusive (physically or verbally) towards other Campers or staff; if the child’s actions pose a threat to the safety of others or themselves; or if the child commits a criminal action, parents/guardians will be responsible for picking up the child immediately.

We reserve the right to dismiss a child from Zoo Camp who continues to misbehave without a refund. In these extremely rare instances, it is the responsibility of the parent/guardian to pick up their child from Zoo Camp immediately.


What is the American Camp Association (ACA)?

The American Camp Association® (ACA) shares our Camp’s commitment to the growth of youth through the Camp experience. In 2004, an independent research firm completed the largest research study of Camper outcomes ever conducted in the United States with over 3,000 families from 92 Camps across the U.S. participating. Results confirmed that Camp builds many of the skills necessary to prepare Campers to assume roles as successful adults. Parents, Campers, and Camp staff independently reported growth in areas such as self-confidence, learning new skills, getting along with others, making friends, and making healthy decisions. Indeed, Camp provides growth experiences for youth that can reap results through adulthood.

ACA Accreditation means that the Camp you are considering for your child cares enough to undergo a thorough (up to 300 standards) review of its operation — from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. American Camp Association® collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current practices at the Camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in Camp operation. Camps and ACA form a partnership that promotes summers of growth and fun in an environment committed to safety.

ACA helps accredited Camps provide:

- Healthy, developmentally-appropriate activities and learning experiences
- Discovery through experiential education
- Caring, competent role models
- Service to the community and the environment
- Opportunities for leadership and personal growth

General Questions

Where can I find lost articles?

Lost articles will be kept in the Zoo Camp office until the end of each week. If the item is unclaimed by Friday, it will be taken to the main Security Office at the south end of the zoo. Campers should avoid bringing jewelry or other irreplaceable items. These things can be stored in a safe place and sent home with the Camper at the end of the day. However, if these items are left elsewhere on zoo property, we are not responsible for loss or damage. You may reach the main Security Office at 708-688-8811 and ask for Lost and Found during zoo hours.


Can I remain at the zoo while my child attends Camp?

Yes! Zoo Camp starts at 9:00 a.m. and you are welcome to spend the day in the Zoo once the zoo opens to the public at 9:30 a.m. and remain in the zoo until it closes to the public.

The camp staff are committed to making Zoo Camp fun and meaningful for your camper. As a courtesy to our staff, once your camper is checked in, we do ask that you leave the immediate area to help avoid confusion and allow the campers to start bonding with their counselors and peers. Groups may or may not leave the check in locations right away due to planned activities.

Check in locations are not an area for parents to meet or gather after the Campers are checked in as it tends to be a negative distraction for Campers and the space may be used by other groups when not in use by Zoo Camp.


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Have a question not answered here?
Contact the Education Department at adventuresinlearning@czs.org!





We are proud to partner with the National Inclusion Project to benefit Zoo Campers with special needs, including physical disabilities, autism, sensory processing disorders, and attention deficit disorders.