Kids Camps, WI

Should I send my child with a lunch?
HAWS will provide a morning snack for your child, but the children should bring a bag lunch. Since HAWS isn’t set up within its facilities to microwave lunch for 40 children, we would appreciate it if your child’s lunch would be something they can eat right out of the bag.


What is the staff to camper ratio?
We have one counselor for every 8 or 9 campers. We also have a teenage junior counselor who helps supervise the campers, helps to run games and assists the counselors in other ways.   In addition our Humane Education Manager is almost always available to help out if needed.


Who are your camp staff?
Khris Erickson is the Humane Education Manager at HAWS and has been running the education department and camp since 2004.  Megan Katzuba is our Education Assistant and has been with HAWS since 2011.  Both have extensive experience running camps and working with children.Most of the other camp staff are returning from previous summers and are well known to us.  Several work at HAWS throughout the rest of the year doing school-year education programming.  Quite of few of our counselors came through our camps as campers or through our other education programs and so have a relationship with HAWS and our staff, and a commitment to our education programs.

Some of our counselors are hired and are new to HAWS.  We are careful in who we hire to care for the children and check references.

What do they do during the one and two day camps?
We bring out animals for the children to learn about and meet. Weather permitting, the kids can walk dogs with their counselors. We do a craft, play some games and give a tour of the shelter. Click here to see an example of the schedule for one of last summer’s 2-day camp sessions.


What do they do during the 5-day camp?
We bring out animals for the children to learn about and meet. The animals that interact with the children depend on what we happen to have here at HAWS at the time.  The campers will see dogs, cats, rabbits and a snake since we always have those animals in the building.  They may also be able to meet guinea pigs, rats, gerbils, mice, hamsters, ferrets, lizards, birds and other types of pet animals

Weather permitting, the kids can walk dogs with their counselors. The younger age group does dog baths and the older kids perform a small amount of dog training.

We do a craft, play some games and provide a tour of the shelter. The kids also do some cleaning of animal cages, and an animal-related field trip is taken. Click here to see an example of the schedule for one of last summer’s 5-day camp sessions.


If I send my child to more than one session will they do the same activities each session?
Because the animals that come out for the kids are chosen for availability and behavior, there is a chance that they may see the same individual animals each session.  And because this is a camp that revolves around animals they most likely will see the same types of animals each session

There are a few activities that we repeat at each camp either because the campers enjoy them so much that they are enthusiastic to do them repeatedly, or because there is a message within the activity we feel is important for the campers to get.  However, we make an effort to ensure that each camp session holds different activities and games so that repeat campers aren’t bored.  As a matter of fact we have many campers that attend multiple camps year after year and enjoy spending time at HAWS and repeating some of the same experiences.


How do you handle the wide range of ages 7-14 in your regular camps?
Campers are split into groups according to age and spend most of their time in their groups doing activities separate from the other campers.  These smaller age appropriate groups allow the campers to make friends and makes for a better experience interacting with the animals.

There are times when all the campers are together such as snack time, lunch and during some games.


How do I make sure that my child ends up in the same group as a friend or sibling?
Prior to creating the groups we ask the campers if they want to be in a group with someone else.  We make sure that campers can be with another camper if they would like.


When you say that the kids will be doing “volunteer work” during camp, what do you mean?
Ninety percent of HAWS volunteers perform animal socialization, meaning they walk the dogs, play with and groom the cats, and take the rabbits and other small animals out of their cages for exercise and handling. Some of our volunteers sort newspapers for use in lining the cages, they assist our office staff, wash litter boxes and fold laundry.

During camp, we have the kids help walk the dogs, play with cats and kittens and socialize other small animals. All week long campers have at least one opportunity to clean cages. The younger kids stuff food into a dog toy called a Kong and give some the dogs a bath. The older kids are given more responsibility by performing dog training and in addition, we also may them sort newspapers.


How do you determine which animals the kids get to see?
We are always looking for different types of animals to bring out for the kids. However, safety for both the campers and the animals is a priority for HAWS. Animals that are brought out for the kids to interact with and handle are assessed for friendliness, as well as the ability to deal with the stress of multiple children interacting with them at one time. If an animal is not easily handled or appears to be fearful or stressed, we will not bring it out for the children to meet. These animals are more likely to bite, making them dangerous for the kids, and it is not humane to inflict this kind of stress on the animals.


Why don’t the kids do more cleaning?
Before this question can be answered, you have to understand how the HAWS staff cleans our animal housing. Because we keep many animals in the same areas within our facility, we need to use a specific cleaning protocol to prevent disease outbreak.

Our kennel staff arrives at HAWS at 7am each day. All dogs and cats are removed from their cages. All bedding, litter boxes, toys and dishes are removed to be cleaned later in the day. Any solid waste is removed and disposed of. The cages are hosed out and a disinfectant is applied. The cages are hosed again and a squeegee is used to dry the surface of the cage. During this process, between 1/8 and 1/2 of an inch of fecal contaminated water is on the floor. Because of this, our staff wears knee-high rubber boots to ensure their feet and legs are kept dry. The animals are given water and returned to their cages. The majority of the cages are fully cleaned by 10am.

In most situations, we cannot have the kids clean the cages, as it would not be safe for them and poses a liability for HAWS. The cages the children clean are the cat cages where the cats are long-term residents, since they can be cleaned with a different protocol than what is outlined above. However, these spaces are not conducive for more than a few people to clean at a time. Therefore, we have the kids split up into small groups and we rotate these groups so that each is provided one opportunity to clean each week.


How do you decide where the campers will go on field trips for the week-long camps?
Field trips are generally planned and booked in January or February prior to the start of camp. We look for several criteria in our field trips. First of all, they need to be animal related — this is Kids ‘n Critters Camp after all! We look for places that aren’t too far from HAWS and are within the budget we have set aside for field trips. One of our major criteria is that the message the kids will obtain from the field trip experience matches the message we are trying to promote at HAWS.

For example, in the past we have looked at several facilities and decided against them for this very reason. One facility was a petting zoo that bred and raised rabbits in outdoor pens to eventually be butchered for food. Since HAWS sees first-hand the repercussions of the over-population problem of pet rabbits, we promote rabbits as being pets that should be spayed or neutered, as well as for health reasons and their well-being should be housed indoors. While we realize that many people eat rabbit, we felt that we couldn’t tell the kids the rabbits they were petting on the field trip were an exception to what we promote, since they would eventually end up as meat. Instead, we looked for other field trip alternatives.


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