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Camp Zoofari FAQs and Policies

Parent Information

Camp Communication is by Email. Check your email for a receipt! Please be sure you are receiving email from Camp Zoofari by checking your SPAM settings in your email. If registering for someone else, be sure to forward them all emails. Camp Zoofari communicates up to the start of camp via email. If you do not receive a receipt via email, please contact our office at education@houstonzoo.org to ensure you receive communications.

Cancellations
Due to the high demand for camp spaces, all sales are considered final. Patrons who provide a written notice of cancellation to education@houstonzoo.org on or before May 1 will receive a 50% refund of their camp registration fees. No refunds will be issued after this date, including participants who miss all or partial programs due to illness. Before camp fees and shirt purchases are not refundable.

The Houston Zoo reserves the right to cancel any program due to minimum enrollment, inclement weather or unforeseen circumstances, in which case a full refund will be issued. Cancellations are official upon receipt of confirmation from the Houston Zoo.

Rescheduling
There will be a rescheduling fee of $35 per camper per topic or date change. Requests must be made in writing to education@houstonzoo.org. Changes are subject to availability. Camp registration is not transferable between campers.

Before Camp Program
The Before Camp Program allows you to drop off a camper 1 ¼ hour before the regular camp day. Before Camp Programming is offered each week during the summer. Due to the nature of this program, Gate 8 will only be opened during the times listed below.  We are not able to open or hold the Gate outside these hours.

7:30AM-7:45AM      Before Camp Program
8:45AM – 9:15AM   Regular Camp Check-In

Registration is $50/week for before camp. Before camp programming can be added to any registration up until the week of camp and is sold as a week.

Before camp program is not daycare.  These programs are delivered on Zoo grounds. There is a window of only 15 minutes when the Gate is open for dropping off and picking up.  This is different than the regular camp day, which allows a 30-minute window.

After Camp Programming
The After Camp Program allows you to pick-up a camper 1 hour after the regular camp day. After Camp Programming is offered select weeks during the summer. The gate remain open from 5:00-5:15 PM. Should you arrive early to pick up your camper, please head to the main entrance and you will be directed through the Zoo to our building. After Camp programming will be offered:

June 3-7
June 17-21
July 8-12
July 22-26

Registration is $60/week. After camp programming can be added to any registration up until the week of camp and is sold as a week.

Any camper remaining after camp pick-up has ended is subject to a late fee of $1/minute.

Camper Pick-Up Lane

This summer, Camp Zoofari will be piloting a pick-up lane on select weeks. If purchasing this option, guests will be able to drive up next to the Zoo on Hermann Park Drive and wait in their vehicle while campers are brought to them. Specifics can be found below:

  • Registration is $60/week per vehicle on the weeks of June 10, June 24, July 15, and July 29.
  • This lane will be open during the regular camp sign-out window of 3:45 PM-4:15PM. Late arrivals will need to come inside.
  • Registration is limited to 40 vehicles on a first come, first served basis.
  • The adults picking up will still be required to show a valid ID and must be on the roster. Anyone not on the roster or without an ID must park and come inside to sign their camper out.
  • The pick-up lane will be on the rightmost southbound lane of Hermann Park Drive, just past the entrance to Lot G (please see the map).
  • Four vehicles will be able to queue along the sidewalk while waiting for their campers.
  • Additional cars arriving will be asked to circle around as to not impede the flow of traffic.
  • A uniformed police officer will be on site to assist in directing traffic.
  • Campers registered for this service will be pulled from their group just prior to dismissal to be ready to go when vehicles arrive.
  • Additional emails will be sent to those registering for this service, so please provide a current email address at registration.

Emergency Contacts and Authorized Individuals
If you are the parent/guardian of the camper and plan to pick up your child every day, you will need to list your name in the emergency contact section when registering. If you are not picking up your child, add all those approved to pick up your child in the emergency contacts of your registration. Please provide the person’s full, legal name and not their nickname on their photo identification. The name on the roster must match the exact spelling and name photo ID. If you’re not sure who will be picking up your child daily, you will have the opportunity to include additional names on the pickup list when you drop off your camper each day. For the safety of your camper, this policy will be followed to ensure no unauthorized individuals try to remove your camper from Camp Zoofari.

Photo Identification and Sign-In/Out
To comply with State of Texas regulations and for the safety and protection of campers, we require a photo ID (name and photo BOTH on a plastic printed card i.e. driver’s license, school ID, credit card w/ photo, work ID, or passport) presented to the camp teacher when signing your child out at the end of the day. The name printed on the ID must match the name on the roster. For safety reasons, our staff are not allowed to make assumptions about nicknames. This procedure will occur every day, every time you pick up your camper. If you forget your identification in your vehicle, you will be asked to retrieve your ID before you can sign your camper out. For the safety of our campers, there are NO exceptions to this policy and we ask that you assist us in making check-out safe and seamless by carrying your ID at all times and passing this information along to anyone approved by you to pick up your camper. Thank you for your cooperation!

You may park in the Hermann Park main parking lot or the old golf course parking lot across the street from the Zoo. These free lots are for the use of the entire Hermann Park and Museum District area, as well as the Medical Center. Unauthorized vehicles parking in the handicapped spaces or loading zones in front of Gate 8 may be ticketed. The Houston Zoo is NOT responsible for paying fines received.

Immunizations (or Affidavits of Exemption)
Camp Zoofari is licensed by the Texas Department of State Health Services and requires immunization records/affidavits of exemption for all campers. All parents/guardians will be required to acknowledge our policy of providing an immunization record or affidavit of exemption from immunizations at the time of purchase of camp. You will not be able to advance any further in the check-out process until you click the acknowledgement box.

All campers must have updated documents on record each year in order to attend camp. No exceptions will be made for this policy. If a record or affidavit is not received by/on the first day of camp, the camper will not be permitted to participate. If you will be submitting an affidavit, you can find more information at https://webds.dshs.state.tx.us/immco/

You can submit your immunization records/affidavits in the following manners:

  1. Email: education@houstonzoo.org
  2. Bring them to an Open House event. Open Houses are May 10 and 15 from 5-7 p.m. in the Brown Conservation Education Center at the Zoo.
  3. Bring them with you on the first day of camp.

No Cell Phone Policy at Camp Zoofari
Camp Zoofari is a high-energy experience filled with fun, interactive activities. We want your child to enjoy their experience connecting to nature and wildlife so we ask you to please refrain from sending your child to camp with a cell phone.

If you need to speak with your child during camp hours, please call our Education Office at 713-533-6379. We will be happy to have your child speak with you.

Should a situation arise at camp in which your child needs to speak with you or you need to be notified of a concern regarding your child such as an illness, we will contact you using the emergency contact information you provided. On Monday morning, please check your child’s roster to verify the emergency contact information provided during registration is correct. Please be sure to provide us with a phone number that will be answered during the camp day.

Waitlist Policy

The waitlist is not the same as registration.  Once a camp has filled, a waitlist will open via a link.  You are welcome to sign up for a waitlist, but this does not guarantee you will have a spot in a camp.

You will be notified by email if a waitlist spot opens and spaces will be sold as first come, first served.  If you are not notified by email, you are not registered for a camp.

In the event enough waitlist spots are requested to allow us to add another camp session, all waitlists will be contacted and given 24 hours to register before we open the camp to additional outside registrants.  If you have two campers be sure they both are either on the waitlist or registered, if you want them attending the same camp.  All waitlists will be closed or converted to new camp sessions by May 1.

Camper Requirements
Camp Zoofari is a program designed for children who can remain in a group setting without parental involvement. In addition to age requirements, campers must be:
• Toilet trained
• Able to use public restrooms without assistance
• Able to spend at least 4.5 hours of the camp day outside, walking around the Zoo

We are happy to accommodate campers with sensory processing challenges or special needs as long as they do not interfere with the health and safety of other campers or the animals in our care.  Please contact our offices before registering to discuss any needs your camper may have to determine if Camp Zoofari is right for your camper.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the camp hours?

Gate 8 camp entrance opens and closes promptly at the hours below in order to begin the camp day. Our staff are not able to “hold the gate” for late arrivals.

Before camp programming is not a drop-off daycare style program. We conduct on-grounds activities with the early/late campers, so Gate 8 will not be staffed outside these hours. Campers not picked up by 4:15 pm will be charged $10 for the first 10 minutes and $5 a minute after that.

Gate 8 Access Hours

  • 7:30 – 7:45 Before Camp Programming ($15/day)
  • 8:45 – 9:15 Camp Registration
  • 3:45 – 4:15 Camp Pick Up

There is no After Camp Program offered during School Break Camps due to the schedule of TXU Presents Zoo Lights.

Where do I go when I arrive?

Please bring campers to Gate 8, located down the sidewalk to the left as you face the main entrance.

The City of Houston does not open the entrance to the Lot G (parking lot closest to Gate 8) until 9AM. When arriving before 9AM, use the entrance by Miller Outdoor Theater at the back of the parking lot (Lot E). Once in the parking lot, park anywhere in lots E, F or G and enter Camp at Gate 8. Gate 8 is only opened at scheduled times listed above.

If I am arriving late? What if I need to leave early?

Gate 8 will only be open the hours above. If you are arriving to pick up or drop off your child outside of these times, use the Zoo’s main entrance. Once inside the Zoo, you must check your child in or out with staff in the Brown Education Center (BEC) office. If checking out early, please allow extra time to find parking and for your camper to return from Zoo grounds back to our building.

Where should I park?

Please visit the Parking and Directions page for up-to-date information on parking around the Zoo. Lots E, F, G, H and I are all open to the public to park.

The free parking lots around Houston Zoo are owned and managed by the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department and have no affiliation with Houston Zoo. They are intended for use of guests visiting Hermann Park, Miller Outdoor Theater, Centennial Gardens, Houston Zoo, and the other museums in the area.

We understand parking can be difficult, especially in the afternoon.  We are unable to offer a carpool lane as emergency vehicles must have access to the Zoo. We cannot block the road and driveway leading into the Zoo.  Because the lot is owned and managed by the City of Houston, we are unable to block or reserve any part of the parking lot for camp participants.

Please do not park in the handicapped spaces or loading zones along the curb outside Gate 8 (Red box below) unless you have a permit, as you may be ticketed or towed. Please do not park there, even if you see others parking in these zones.

City of Houston Parking Enforcement and Houston Police routinely patrol the area and write tickets to camp parents parking in these spaces when they begin blocking access to the street and driveway to emergency vehicles. Houston Zoo is not responsible for fines received.

I want my camper to be with friends. What should I do?

Camp is designed to foster new friendships and is an important part of early childhood development. There are no guarantees that we will be able to pair up campers as we assign them to their camp group by birthdate. We do this so that a camper on the youngest end of the age group is not placed with a camper in the oldest campers in the age group or vice versa. (For example, a camper who just turned 4 is not placed in a camp group with a camper who is currently 5, but will be 6-years-old in a month).

We limit requests to one camper to be paired with one other camper. We are not able match up groups of 3 or more individuals. Campers in the same topic will see each other throughout the day – in the morning, at lunch, during activities, animal handling and at the end of the day. To ensure a better chance that your request is filled please:
1. Make sure both campers are registered for the same camp topic on the same date.
2. Send an email to our office education @houstonzoo.org with both camper’s full names, dates and the camp topic.
3. Make your request by May 1, 2019.

What do I do if my child has allergies?

If your child has food allergies, please include this information when registering. We are not able to offer alternative snacks. You are welcome to provide a snack for your own child if allergies are a concern.

My child needs to take medication; how should I arrange for this?

The Houston Zoo does NOT administer medication to children, nor does it allow campers to self-medicate and does not permit medication (OTC or prescription) at camp with the exception of emergency medications (inhalers, epi-pens, etc.). Please consult a physician so medication can be administered outside of camp. To ensure a positive experience for all campers, it is IMPERATIVE that you notify us of any special needs or medical conditions your child may have. We will accommodate these needs to the best of our ability.

What should I pack for meals?

Camp Zoofari is a “high energy” activity with several hours of walking around the Zoo, so campers should eat a hearty breakfast before arrival.  We provide bagged snacks (pretzels, cookies or crackers) in the morning and afternoon.  Water is also offered throughout the day at refillable water stations in the Zoo.  We recommend bringing a reusable water bottle to keep your camper hydrated.

All campers must bring a lunch daily. Due to safety concerns, glass containers are prohibited.  Juice boxes with straws are not allowed. There is not a microwave available for use.

Some items are not recommended. Please pack clear liquids or juices only for drinking.  Please see lunch recommendations below.

Recommended:

  • Sandwich or “Lunchable”
  • Whole fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Reusable containers
  • Water or Sport Drinks
  • Clear fruit juice
  • Cereal bars
  • String cheese

Not Recommended:

  • Yogurt and “Gogurt”
  • Milk
  • Difficult to open packages
  • Soda
  • Smoothies
  • Sushi
  • Mayonnaise-based salads
  • Thick fruit/vegetable juice

Not Allowed:

  • Glass containers
  • Food that requires heating or cooking
  • Food for other campers
  • Juice boxes with a plastic straw

Can I bring snacks for the group?

Due to dietary restrictions of participants, please do not bring snacks (such as cupcakes) for your child’s class as we are unable to allow these to be shared with the group.

My camper is sensitive to transitions or elements like light, sound or smells. Is Camp Zoofari a good fit for my camper?

The answer really depends upon your camper. Camp Zoofari can be very overwhelming to some campers with these sensitivities, yet others do extremely well at camp.  You know your camper best and what he or she may be able to safely and comfortably experience.

Camp takes place outdoors, in the Houston Zoo, for 4.5 hours each day.  Camp groups do not have a dedicated classroom space.  The spaces you see at check-in and check-out are only used for that purpose.  There are indoor activities in a variety of buildings. The Zoo is a public space and can be crowded and/or loud. Additionally, our proximity to the Medical Center means sirens and helicopters can routinely be heard inside the Zoo.   Live animals and food vendors produce a variety of smells.  Campers must be able to use public restrooms, which have electric hand-driers, without assistance. Campers complete multiple transitions each day as they move between exhibits and buildings.  Each building may have different lighting based on the needs of the animals in those spaces.

We do our best to prepare all campers by sharing the plan for the day with them each morning and announcing transitions before they occur.

If you have a question or concern, please call our office at 713-533-6739 before registering. We are unable to offer refunds for campers who leave camp early because the sensory elements or transitions are too much for them to handle.

What does my camper do all day?

See what your campers will discover each day on our Parent Page. We also post camp photos in the week following camp.  This page will be updated June 1, 2018 and then weekly after that.

May I enroll my child in a camp for an older age group?

Age requirements are not negotiable and are strictly enforced. Campers must fall within the specified age category on the first day of the camp session they are attending.  We divide the campers by their birthdate into smaller groups for Zoo tours and activities.

How are campers supervised?

Camp Zoofari is proudly licensed by the State of Texas as a youth day camp.  The law requires at least 1 adult to every 10 campers.  Camp Zoofari exceeds this requirement by staffing 1 adult and one teen to every 8 campers.

Campers are supervised at all times and are escorted on restroom breaks.  However, our staff are not allowed to enter the restroom stalls to assist campers and must remain outside of the bathroom of the opposite gender.    All campers must be able to use a public restroom without assistance.

What should I bring/pack?

You must bring the following:

  1. Camp shirt
  2. Close-toes shoes
  3. Reusable water bottle
  4. Lunch

You may want to also bring:

  • Weather-appropriate gear like hats, coats, rain coats, sunglasses, etc.
  • Sunscreen or bug spray. Please apply before dropping off your camper.  We are not able to apply.
  • Camera for older campers.

Can I bring a backpack?

Campers are only in the space parent’s see for check-in and check-out. Camp takes place on Zoo Grounds and campers must be able to carry everything themselves. Cubbies are available for children to store items they don’t want to carry in the Zoo. Please do not bring any personal electronics, such as tablets or gaming systems as these items could be lost.  Houston Zoo is not responsible for any personal electronic devices brought.

Does my child need to wear their camp shirt every day?

Yes, a camp t-shirt must be worn each day of Camp Zoofari. One shirt is included in the registration fee.  You may purchase additional shirts at the time of registration for $10 apiece. Sizes are Youth XS (2-4), S (6-8), M (10-12), L (14-16), and Adult S, M, and L. If you are unsure of what size to order, please order a size larger to allow room for your camper to grow.

What do you do in the event of severe weather?

If Houston Zoo is open, Camp Zoofari is operating. To determine if camp is in session, please visit the Houston Zoo main page. Any closings will be announced on the homepage of our website. Closings will also be communicated via the Houston Zoo Facebook page.

What are the camp rules?

  1. Listen and follow instructions
  2. Participate in camp activities
  3. Respect others
  4. Respect property
  5. Have fun!

Should a camper forget the camp rules, one of our Camp Guides will remind them of the camp rules. If the behavior continues, the camper will be removed and parents called to speak to them. In the event improvement is not realized after a phone call, the camper shall be sent home for the remainder of the day. A return to camp the following day will be at our discretion. Refunds are not provided for campers sent home for failing to follow the rules.

Any further questions?

Contact Us:
education@houstonzoo.org
Education Number: 713-533-6739

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