Zoo Focus at Watertown Summer Camp

For the second consecutive year, The New York State Zoo at Thompson Park teamed up with Jefferson-Lewis BOCES to offer participants of an annual summer camp the chance to learn and help the zoo with its exhibits. 

The second annual M.A.S.T (Manufacturing Academy of Science and Technology) Summer Camp at the Charles H. Bohlen, Jr. Technical Center was held July 24 through August 3 in Watertown with over twenty students from ages eleven to fourteen taking part. 

Last year’s initial camp had participants study ways to improve the waterfall in the zoo’s bear exhibit.  This year, participants worked on how to improve air quality and ventilation at the zoo’s Conservation Center. 

On the camp’s first day, students weren’t told what their project would be, other than that it involved the zoo. It was on the camp’s second day that they learned the exact nature of what they hoped to accomplish over the next two weeks. 

Research conducted by the students included the history of the zoo, what kinds of animals could be added to exhibits, and what it takes to provide clean air for those exhibits.  The students took part in several field trips to the zoo and were educated on how the animals are cared for. They were also given a demonstration on how to test air quality within the zoo’s buildings.  Apex Clean Energy representatives gave the students a presentation on the construction of wind turbines and how blades, through the use of a motor, can move air into a particular direction.

The research and preparation paid off on August 2, as camp participants gave a presentation of the Conservation Center Air Quality Project to family members, BOCES staff and zoo staff.  It included recommendations on improving the air ventilation system inside the building. 

Zoo Director Lesley Clark says the solutions authored by the camp participants were valuable to the organization.

“The students of the MAST program have done an amazing job combining science, technology, and their own innovative ideas to help the zoo come up with a very practical solution to help improve an aging building on zoo grounds. My hope is that this program inspires the students to be problem solvers and life-long environmental advocates. Programs like these are invaluable assets to the community as a whole – and we love being able to take part.”

For the camp participants, the two weeks gave them the opportunities to learn the value of teamwork and to make new friends.  Lillie Andre, a sixth grader at Sackets Harbor Central School, enjoyed working with new technology.  Her friend Sophia Gondek, a fellow sixth grader from Sackets Harbor, stated that she learned the Power Point program for the first time. 

Sisters Leah and Chloe Hagelin from Lyme Central School attended the camp together.  They stated they enjoyed going to the zoo, meeting the animals and learning more about the inner workings of air filtration systems.  Leah will be entering the ninth grade in the fall while Chloe will be entering seventh grade.

Many of students say they look forward to taking part in next year’s camp.  As for the ventilation project, students in the HVAC class at the Bohlen Technical Center are scheduled to undertake work on it beginning this fall.