Summer Camps at the GCA
We recently sat down with our Education Assistant, Matt D., to discuss everyone’s favorite camp season – summer!
What kinds of programs do we offer for summer camps?
There are camps for a wide range of ages, 5 – 14 specifically. Campers favorites tend to be Marine Scientists in Training with the older kids and Aquatic Adventures for the younger kids. The Marine Scientist program allows children to really dive in what it would be like to have a career in the aquatic animal field, such as dissecting a squid (it’s a program highlight!) and feeding some of our resident animals.
Aquatic Adventures is more suited for younger children because it involves more hands-on learning activities and lets them explore their creative side. We even let the campers lead a tour of the Aquarium to their families at the end of the week to give them a chance to show off their new found knowledge.
How long are the programs?
4- 5 days.
What is your favorite program?
Aquatic Adventures. It’s one of my favorites because it involves fishing at the Canalway Center and a boat cruise on the Nautica Queen. At that age range (7-10), kids are really excited to learn about the different fish that we have at the [Greater Cleveland] Aquarium.
Which program do you believe is most unique?
Most definitely the program involving the Schnooer Appledore IV. It’s rare for the ship to come to Cleveland, so to be able to participate in a program like that, it’s a special opportunity. It’s a new experience for not only the kids, but also for the counselor. Campers get the chance to learn what it’s like on the water. There is a lot of diversity of life in the Lake Erie and it’s a good time in the campers life to teach them about how they can impact that same diversity.
Another unique opportunity is in our Sharks! camp. It’s unique in that at the end of the week, there is a sleepover in our own 175ft Shark SeaTube, it’s not often you can sleep and see stingrays or groupers swimming above your head.
How long has the Aquarium been doing summer camp programs?
This will be the fourth year doing camps. The program itself grows as a whole each year, including expansion of themes or topics and experiences.
What do you hope campers who participate in our program walk away with?
I hope campers experience an equal balance of fun and education. It is summer vacation, but there is a lot I want to impart on their young minds. It’s easier to teach them about something they are excited and passionate about; and hopefully it becomes a topic they’ll talk to their friends and family about.
Why do you think it’s important for institutions such as zoos and aquariums to have programs like this?
The future of our environment and wildlife depends on this generation of children. Getting them to care about things like Lake Erie conservation and conservation of all aquatic life is imperative.
What has been your favorite memory from the summer education program over the last year?
The beach clean ups with the Marine Scientists in Training program. It was a lot of fun and you really get the feeling like you made a difference for our lake and all the animals who call it home. It’s also nice to see when campers make friends within the program.
As an educator, what is your favorite topic?
I really like talking about not only the sharks on exhibit at the Aquarium, but sharks in general because they need the protection from predators the most. It’s satisfying to see their faces when you inform them that sharks are not man-eaters, and don’t even enjoy the taste of humans.
What do you hope to see in the future for the summer education camp programs?
More unique, once in a lifetime opportunities such as the Schnooer Appledore IV experience. Giving kids opportunities like this is rewarding and the best part about being an educator.