Zoo Camp
Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question below to learn more!



How do I register?
To view the Zoo Camp summer schedule and to register, visit, www.czs.org/camp and click Register Now! (A helpful hint...before selecting your Zoo Camp dates be sure they don’t conflict with any other summer plans!)

When does Zoo Camp registration begin?
Registration for Zoo Camp beings on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at 9:00 AM. As part of the Chicago Zoological Society’s environmentally-friendly initiatives, Zoo Camp registration is only available online through our website, www.czs.org/camp. If you experience problems while registering, please contact the Service Representative at 708-688-8342 or e-mail at adventuresinlearning@czs.org.

When does Zoo Camp registration close for each week?
Registration for each Zoo Camp week session closes 14 calendar days prior to the start of Camp. This ensures proper scheduling for space requirements, Camp activities, and Zoo Camp staff.

What are the Zoo Camp themes for each week?
Zoo Camp rotates between three one-week curricula.For your Camper to have the best possible experience at Brookfield Zoo, we respectfully ask that your Camper not repeat the same theme during the summer. You can check out the Camp curricula here.

How many Zoo Camp sessions can I sign up for?

Each Camp is one-week long, and Zoo Camp rotates between three one-week curricula. Please be aware of themed weeks when registering. For your Camper to have the best possible experience at Brookfield Zoo, we respectfully ask that your Camper not repeat the same theme during the summer. You can check out the Camp curricula here

May I enroll my PreZoo Camper in both Morning and Afternoon Camp sessions?
We highly discourage enrollment of your PreZoo Camper in both the Morning and Afternoon Camp sessions of a given week. There is no supervision between Camps (from 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM) and no lunch provided. All morning curriculum is repeated in the afternoon session.

Can I drop my Camper off early? Can I pick them up later?
Yes! We offer Early Arrival and Extended Day options. The cost is $10 per option, per day, per Camper. Early Arrival is available Tuesdays - Fridays from 8:00 - 9:00 AM. Extended Day is available Mondays - Thursdays from 3:30-5:00 PM. It is encouraged whenever possible to sign up for these options online during Camp registration. However, because we know life can be surprising, we can accept cash or check on the day of.

Can I order extra Zoo Camp T-shirts?
Yes! Additional t-shirts can be ordered online during time of registration. We can also accept cash or check during your Camp session. Additional t-shirts are $10 each.

Can my Camper register for the same sessions as their friend?
Yes! You may select one friend to be in the same Zoo Camp session with your child. Any number of friends over this amount may not be honored due to space needs and staffing availability. We always encourage Zoo Campers to make new friends at Camp!

Make sure you have coordinated with the parents/guardians of the other group participants prior to registering. Each party must request their children be in the same group to make the registration valid. If each parent does not request them to be put in the same group they will not be placed in the same group.

My Camper wants to join his/her friend in Camp, but their ages put them in different Camps. Can we put them together anyways?
Though we understand that our Campers like being with their friends, an important part of going to summer Camp is making new friends! As part of our American Camp Association (ACA) accreditation and to deliver the best possible Camp experience, our Zoo Camp curriculum is carefully designed and built for each specific age group that our Camps are divided into. Your Camper will have the best Camp experience in a level that is designed for his/her age and development.

I’ve already registered. What happens next?
Once you’ve completed the online Zoo Camp registration, please fill out the medical waiver found here or on our website at www.czs.org/camp. This waiver must be printed, signed, and brought to the first day of Zoo Camp.

The week before your Zoo Camp session begins, you will receive an e-mail reminder with information on where to go on the first day of Camp, what Campers should bring, and contact information. (Note: This reminder can only be sent if your e-mail address is accurately entered during registration. Furthering Chicago Zoological Society’s green efforts, we no longer mail paper reminders.) You will also receive information on what to bring and weekly activities.

I've already registered, but I need to change some information--Help?

Need to update t-shirt size? Need to add a Camp Friend request? Please click here to send your changes to us. Do not use this form for items that require additional payment. Once we have made the changes to your Camper's registration, we will e-mail you a confirmation. 

Can I reschedule my Zoo Camp session to a different week?
Due to the popularity of Zoo Camp, all rescheduling must be done no less than 14 calendar days before your original Camp session and no less than 14 calendar days prior to the start of the new desired Camp session. Please note that rescheduling your Camp session will incur a fee of $10 per Camper/session. Please view our Class Policies page.

To register for a new date please call the Conservation, Education, and Training Department Hotline at 708-688-8342.

What is the Zoo Camp cancellation and refund policy?
Please view our Class Policies page regarding cancellations and refunds. For questions regarding our policy or to request a refund, please call the Conservation, Education, and Training Department Hotline at 708-688-8342.

Preparing for Zoo Camp

Zoo Camp: Day One!
On the First Day of Camp you are required to bring:
  • Confirmation Letter (sent to you online and via e-mail at the conclusion of the registration process)
  • Completed Medical Waiver Form
  • Early/Extended Day Confirmation (if applicable)

Where do I drop off my child for camp?
Please enter the zoo at the South Gate near Riverside-Brookfield High School, off of Ridgewood Road. Tell the parking attendant that you are here for Zoo Camp and show them your confirmation letter. You do not need to pay for parking or admission. Once past the first gate, turn right, and you will come to the second gate. Again tell the attendant you are here for Zoo Camp and show your confirmation letter.
Follow the road to the Discovery Center parking lot. Please note the speed limit is 10 MPH and is police enforced. Park in any designated parking space. DO NOT park in the yellow lined area next to the building or you will be ticketed.
Please note traffic to the zoo can be very busy, especially during pick up time. Please allow plenty of time to get to the Discovery Center.

What is the Medical Waiver and what do I do with it?
In the event you are unable to be reached, the Medical Waiver allows Brookfield Zoo paramedics to act in the best interest of your child in the event of an emergency. Brookfield Zoo has licensed paramedics on Zoo grounds at all times who have an emergency response time of less than 45 seconds. The Brookfield Zoo paramedics are licensed under Loyola Hospital, and the Brookfield Zoo has its own ambulance.

Please read the Medical Waiver for full details and fill it out completely. You can return it to us by e-mail to adventuresinlearning@czs.org in advance or you may bring it with you on the first day of Camp.

Is there anything my Zoo Camper needs to bring every day?

Every Zoo Camp participant should bring:
  • A backpack – Your Camper will receive one drawstring backpack as part of their registration
  • A reusable water bottle – Zoo Camp will have water bottles available for purchase
  • Sun block (which they must be able to apply themselves)
  • For full-day Campers: please bring a lunch if you are not pre-purchasing lunch through your Camp registration. Purchasing lunches on-site is not an option.
Please note: Counselors cannot apply sunscreen or bug spay to Zoo Campers. If you choose to, please apply sun screen and bug spray before Zoo Campers arrive. You may send extra sunscreen and bug spray, but participants must be able to apply it themselves.

Is there anything my Zoo Camper should not bring?
Zoo Campers should not bring:
  • Electronic games, laptop computers, iPods, MP3 players, or CD 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. However, if these items are left elsewhere 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.

Will lunches and/or snacks be provided for Zoo Campers?
Zoo Camp provides a free cheese pizza lunch for all full-day participants on Friday, the last day of Camp. For Monday through Thursday, you can choose to send lunches with your full-day Zoo Camper or purchase them ahead of time through your Camp registration. Lunches are prepared by our Catered Events department and the cost is $30 per week. A cheese pizza lunch is provided every Friday of Camp, but your Camper is welcome to bring his/her own lunch that day as well. A gluten-free pizza option is also available for an additional fee--please call the Service Representative at 708-688-8342 at least one week prior to the start of Zoo Camp.

Zoo Camp provides one light snack per day for all Campers.

Note: If your child has any food allergies, you may click here for a list of snack ingredients. You are always welcome to send your own snacks as well. For additional information please send an e-mail to adventuresinlearning@czs.org.

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 or throughout the Camp session. Each shirt is $10.00 and payment is accepted by check and/or cash (exact amount is appreciated). Please have the Zoo Camper wear this shirt every day.

Campers should come to the Zoo ready to explore and that sometimes means getting messy. 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. 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 ask that all Campers 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.

What if my child has allergies?
If your child requires allergy medication or an EpiPen®, please send it with them if they are able to administer it themself. Though all of the Counselors are trained to recognize the signs of an anaphylactic reaction, Camp Counselors are not trained on the administration of an EpiPen® and are not permitted to carry any type of medication on them. Additionally, each group is equipped with a radio to contact our staff paramedics directly in case of an emergency. Once the radio call has been placed, the typical response time is less than one minute.
Brookfield Zoo has its own ambulance and licensed paramedics are on Zoo grounds at all times. Each paramedic also carries an EpiPen®. The Brookfield Zoo paramedics are licensed under Loyola Hospital.

Note: If your child has any food allergies, you may click here for a list of snack ingredients. You are always welcome to send your own snacks as well. For additional information please send an e-mail to adventuresinlearning@czs.org.

What if my child has special needs?
During the Zoo Camp registration process, please note any special needs your child has as well as leave a message on the Camp Hotline at 708-688-8342 and a staff member will get back to you.

What are your bathroom policies?
All Zoo Campers must be fully potty-trained and need no assistance when using the restroom.

When in public restrooms, 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 breaks are taken frequently throughout the day.

Can you tell me more about Zoo Camp activities?
All Zoo Camp activities are subject to change due to weather, instructor, Zoo Keeper availability, as well as animals rotating on/off exhibit at Brookfield Zoo.

For the safety of our participants and our animals, direct contact with exhibit animals is not possible. All exhibit animal care including the feeding and cleaning is done by professionally trained Zoo Keepers.

Brookfield Zoo is home to many animals that can be touched such as stingrays, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals that are used for educational programming.

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.

About Zoo Camp Staff and the ACA

Can you tell me more about the Zoo Camp staff?
All Zoo Camp Counselor staff must meet or exceed the following standards:
  • Minimum of one year college or equivalent combination of training and experience required. This includes course work in education, biological sciences, communication, or other directly related fields such as public speaking, interpretation, theater, or art.
  • Must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Minimum of one year working with children in a formal or non-formal education setting such as day care, summer Camps, student teaching at public/privates schools, park districts, or cultural institutions.
  • Ability to work in a team environment
  • Strong organizational and communication skills
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 and the American Camp Association.

Many of our Zoo Camp Counselors are previous Brookfield Zoo Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) participants and have progressed through a career ladder to become staff members.

Who are the Zoo Camp Counselor Assistants (CCA’s)?
Zoo Camp Counselor Assistants have come up through the Brookfield Zoo’s Career Ladder program. This means they were Youth Volunteer Corps participants and have been recommended for hire by the program coordinator.

Camp Counselor Assistants receive the same training as Camp Counselors. They spend the summer shadowing different Camp Counselors, observing teaching styles. They must also pass an interview screening, background check, as well as participate in staff training and review sessions.

How does Zoo Camp handle discipline?
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.

Verbal warnings, discussions of undesired actions/behavior, brief time-outs, or the removing of privileges are used for Zoo Campers that display inappropriate behavior or refuse to follow an established rule.

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.

How do you handle bullying at Zoo Camp?
Zoo Camp has zero tolerance for bullying. Participants that demonstrate bullying behaviors, including but not limited to, verbal abuse, physical abuse (hitting, punching, pinching, spitting, kicking), emotional abuse, and destruction of property, will have proper disciplinary actions taken. Bullying will result in immediate dismissal and, if applicable, the contacting of authorities.

Please discuss this with your child. Let them know if they feel bullied or harassed to immediately tell a Camp Counselor. If you are aware that your Camper feels bullied, harassed, or uncomfortable please contact our staff immediately so we can work on resolving the situation and make Camp as enjoyable as possible.

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