Building miniature bear dens, making animals tracks and meeting animals up close made for a “Wild Friday” at a Colorado Springs mall.
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo teamed up with Imagination Celebration at The Citadel mall to offer mini-camps for children on the busiest shopping day of the year. More families wandered in as the day progressed, meeting the animals, working on crafts and spending time together.
The two visiting black-tailed prairie dogs were the highlight of the day, according to 7-year-old Azul Silva. Pepper the baby porcupine was also fun to learn about, she said.
“She eats fishsticks,” Azul said. “I saw how the porcupine spreads out its quills.”
Parents signed up their 5- to 10-year-old campers for the three-hour sessions. The zoo brought in a variety of animals including a snake, tortoises and an opossum.
Azul and the others in the afternoon session had a blast, and many said they wanted to do the camp again.
“You get to eat food and see animals and feel them and pet them,” she said.
Dozens of kids of all ages — and adults — interacted with the animals all day. The prairie dogs scampered around in an exclosure at the entrance to Imagination Celebration until it was time for them to take a rest.
“They don’t get to see them up close and see how interesting they are,” said Diane Vander Giessen, zoo outreach coordinator.
“It’s great for kids to connect with animals. Kids definitely learn,” she said. “The range of activities we do reaches kids at all levels.”
It’s the first time the zoo has come to the mall space, but it’s not the first time the organizations have teamed up. Usually, Imagination Celebration doesn’t host drop-off care for kids, but the zoo camps made sense on Black Friday.
“One of the most valuable parts of Imagination Celebration is collaboration,” said Deborah Thornton, “curious choreographer of creativity” for the space.
Imagination Celebration also hosted a Soup for Education fundraiser on Friday. Handmade and hand painted bowls could be purchased for $10 and filled with an array of homemade soups. The proceeds go toward education scholarships given to students at the Educating Children of Color Summit in January.
The space is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays on the top level of The Citadel mall, near Burlington Coat Factory. Families are encouraged to stop by and spend some time together.
Santa will be making a stop to share cookies, milk and crafts 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Dec. 8. Tickets are $3.