Over winter break, most students enjoy sleeping in, watching TV and playing for hours indoors.
This was not the case for 4-H Club members Kyla Combs, Chase Schulp, Kierstyn Lawson and Sonja Grotjan.
About 5:30 a.m. was the wake-up time for Combs, 14, who participated in the Busch Gardens 4-H Zoo Apprenticeship Camp from Dec. 29-Jan. 2.
“The first day that I went, I got to pet and hold a sloth and sort out different foods for all the animals,” said Combs, a Shamrock 4-H member.
For the first time, the Missouri camp allowed 42 members to learn how to care for marine and land animals from around the world in a 335-acre African-themed “living classroom” in Tampa Bay, Florida.
“They were with the zoo keepers starting in the morning by helping feed the animals, cleaning their cages, scooping poop; so they were seeing the good parts of it and the bad parts of it,” adviser Elaine Anderson said.
Anderson is the county engagement specialist for extension centers in Moniteau, Morgan and Cooper counties. When she learned about the trip, she brought the information to the 4-H council, which agreed to pay the registration fees for attending members.
The four 4-Hers attended the council’s meeting Jan. 16, presenting a photo slide show and answered questions about the trip.
Youth under the age of 14 took a less hands-on approach during the camp. They attended educational seminars on animal stimulation, nutrition, training and positive reinforcement during the day.
In the evening, campers rode roller coasters in the theme park. They also saw hippopotamuses, gorillas, elephants and enjoyed marine shows at Sea World.
“(I liked) everything at Sea World,” said Grotjan, a Twin City 4-H member. “I like marine animals more than I like land animals.”
Next year’s trip will be open to 55 Missouri youth and is scheduled Dec. 28- Jan. 1. Interested 4-H members in the county can call Anderson at 573-378-5358.