Growing up, I always knew I wanted to have a career working with animals, but also knew I didn’t want to be a veterinarian.
As a child and teenager, I involved myself in many animal-related extra-curricular activities, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized the extent of professional animal opportunities that exist. Whether I was completing a career report in elementary school, or trying to decide on a college major, there was an absence of information and resources regarding animal careers. These personal experiences as a young person inspired me to create a program that would provide direction and information to the young animal lovers in our community.
This summer, the East Bay SPCA will host three different Summer Animal Camp programs, one of which is designed for middle school students who hope to work with animals in the future. Sixth-to-eighth grade students will have the opportunity to meet various guest speakers who have animal-related careers, from veterinarians to trainers to pet business owners. These guests will share their stories and provide information and resources to fuel the students’ passions for our furry friends. Even for young people who are not interested in the animal professions, Summer Animal Camp offers a great opportunity to enjoy hands-on learning experiences.
Interacting with animals is always the best part of camp. The East Bay SPCA is devoted to rehabilitating dogs and cats that have treatable medical conditions and solvable behavioral challenges. Meeting the animals housed in our adoption facilities who have overcome difficult situations and hearing their stories powerfully teaches campers to have compassion and empathy towards all living beings. Campers have the opportunity to connect with these special creatures, and the loving feeling this generates is good for the children as well as the animals. In all of our educational programs we aim to foster that deep bond that humans and animals can share.
The East Bay SPCA also offers Summer Animal Camp for children who will be entering grades one-to-three and four-to-five in the fall. Separate programs have been designed for each of these age groups to best meet their educational needs.
The basis of Animal Camp for the younger children is a foster-to-adopt program in which campers care for a stuffed animal for the entire week of camp, just as if it were a live dog or cat. Campers are expected to keep a journal of their experiences with their foster pets, and to note any questions or challenges they have in the processes.
Throughout the week, specially-designed activities teach these young campers about the cost, care, and responsibility of owning an animal; many of the lessons involve live animal interactions. At the end of the week campers can decide whether or not they would like to “adopt” their animals. It is not uncommon for children to decide not to do so, based on what they have learned about the requirements and responsibilities of living with animals. Last summer, for example, a young boy said he couldn’t adopt his animal because he had frogs that lived in his room. Apparently, his foster cat (remember, it is a “pretend” cat) was keeping his frogs up at night and making them “ribbit” so much that he was unable to sleep! Summer Animal Camp inspires children to use their imaginations as they learn important lessons about animals.
Summer Animal Camp for fourth-to-fifth graders likewise includes activities, games, and guest speakers that introduce campers to a variety of topics related to companion animals. Participants in this camp session will have the opportunity to view a spay and/or neuter surgery. Campers also tour the East County Animal Shelter, located directly across the street from our facility in Dublin, so they can fully understand the nature of what we do and how all local humane organizations work together to help the animals in our communities.
Whether your young animal lover just wants a memorable summer experience with some hands-on animal time or is interested in an animal career when they grow up, the East Bay SPCA’s Summer Animal Camp program is a perfect fit! I wish I had been able to attend a similar program when I was a child and am delighted to be able to facilitate one now as an adult.
To register a child for camp, or for information on any East Bay SPCA programs or services, please visit our website at www.eastbayspca.org.
Joelle Aguire is the Humane Education Manager for the East Bay SPCA.