Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Zombie Survival Camp Reanimates Kids

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Zombie Survival Camp Reanimates Kids

Article excerpt

At an inspired day camp in Iowa, kids learn wilderness skills as they prepare for the zombie apocalypse

For kids across the country, summer vacation is a much-anticipated chance to break free of the classroom, take a family road trip, splash in the community pool and...veg out in front of the TV or video game console. We've all heard the statistics and warnings about the amount of "screen time" kids consume - around 7.5 hours per day, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation.

Ann Cejka, a creative and passionate program coordinator at Iowa's Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, has found a way to capitalize on a familiar theme in popular movies, TV shows and video games and use it to get kids outside. The Zombie Survival Camp she runs at Ushers Ferry Historic Village has become the agency's most popular day camp, and it has garnered attention from the local and national media - including a tweet by Gale Anne Hurd, producer of the TV hit "The Walking Dead." Cejka designed the camp as a way to get kids "out of the house and thinking beyond the video game screen." She wants to help them see, think, imagine, pretend and play in nature.

Since 2010, 8-12 year olds in the Cedar Rapids area have spent part of their spring and summer breaks preparing for the zombie apocalypse. That's the hook, anyway. Participants learn orienteering, identify edible wild plants, locate safe drinking water, practice archery and develop emergency plans, among many other skills. Throughout the camp there are zombie attacks, and at the end of the week, an epic water- gun battle between campers and zombies ensues.

Of course, these wilderness survival skills would be useful should zombies attack, but that's only the beginning. Cejka sees Zombie Survival Camp as an opportunity to get kids outdoors to explore and enjoy nature, build teamwork and leadership skills, and gain confidence in their own abilities. "It's not about who's the fastest or who's the smartest," she says. Instead, Cejka encourages the kids to find the right person for each job and work as a team to accomplish projects like designing and constructing a shelter or drawing a tactical map of the battlefield.

Courage is another valuable life skill many Zombie Survival Camp participants learn. At the end of a week of camp, one boy was talking with his father and Cejka. …

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