Education specialist Kevin Jenné, who heads up the camp, said campers on Tuesday explored museum collections, where the vast majority of the museum’s holdings are stored, including large mammals and ancient birds that have never been on display.
“They get to see what they won’t see if they just come through on a regular tour,” Jenné said. “We give them the VIP treatment.”
On Friday, campers saw more behind-the-scenes action when they took a quick trip to the museum’s Live Animal Building, open to the public only twice a year. The LAB, as it’s referred to, houses a diverse collection of creatures, from the cute and cuddly to the cold and scaly.
First-time camper Lydia Sylvester said her favorite was the LAB’s largest species, a 60-pound boa constrictor.
“Because I like snakes,” she said. “And he was cool ’cause he was really big.” The 8-year-old was first in line to hold a slightly less threatening python and one of the LAB’s bearded dragon lizards.
Nine-year-old Madison Watson took her turn holding the lizard but said she preferred the building’s furry inhabitants.
“I was sort of nervous ’cause I thought his claws were going to dig into my shirt,” she said adding, “I liked the ferrets best ’cause they were so cute.”
Programs manager Gina Morey has been with the museum for 16 years and said the camp has been around for close to 25 years.
“That’s a long time to keep up interest in something like this,” she said.
The camp is open to children entering second through fifth grade. Morey said this was the first year a second session for older children hadn’t been offered but it would likely be back next summer.
“Most of our kids return each year,” she said. “We have one kid this year who is technically too old, and he’s one of the ones asking to come back.”
In addition to VIP access at the Museum of Natural History, this week campers got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Berman Museum, took a field trip to the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, learned about local ecosystems while fishing for catfish and hiked the nature trails on the museum’s grounds.
“They really love it,” Jenné said. “And their parents and grandparents say they sleep great at night because we’ve worn them out.”