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Chicago Zoological Society’s Summer Camp Receives Program of Excellence Award
ZooCamp at Brookfield Zoo Honored for Developing Inclusive Experience for Children of All Abilities

The Chicago Zoological Society’s summer camp program has been awarded the 2013 Program of Excellence Award from the American Camp Association of Illinois. The program was selected for encouraging children with and without disabilities to work together in groups and interact with peers through cooperative activities.

This past summer, staff at Brookfield Zoo worked with a task group of experts and mentors to develop a “ZooCamp for All” program that would serve a broad cross section of families, including those whose children have a challenge with mobility, mental capability, or emotional and behavior balance and self-management. The staff received specialized training that allowed them to better meet the needs of children with disabilities, thus enhancing the ability for children to acclimate and fully participate in the program.

“We are honored to receive the Program of Excellence Award,” said David Becker, senior manager of learning experiences for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “It is a wonderful affirmation of our efforts to make ZooCamp an inclusive experience so that children of all abilities can enjoy our summer camp program together.”

The ZooCamp for All program was made possible through a grant received by the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust. The grant contributed to the improvement of services for children with all forms of disabilities and led to the development of a specific approach of inclusion by utilizing the support of families and the community.

“The Chicago Zoological Society earned this award for its determination and commitment to develop a summer camp program that is inclusive of all children,” said Gordie Kaplan, executive director of the American Camp Association of Illinois. “The exemplary program establishes a benchmark for other summer camp programs.”

Each summer, ZooCamp at Brookfield Zoo serves 1,700 children ranging in ages from 4 to 14. The camp is led by experienced educators who connect campers with animals and the natural world through games, activities, animal encounters, nature hikes, and zoo explorations. Online registration for 2014 ZooCamp begins in mid-March.

The Society’s summer camp program is the first in the country to earn American Camp Association accreditation. ACA-accredited camps are evaluated for up to 300 health, safety, and program quality standards and have a demonstrated commitment to providing experiential education and learning opportunities in a safe and nurturing environment.