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Campers learn to survive ‘zombie’ encounters at Oak Canyon Nature Center

Campers learn to survive ‘zombie’ encounters at Oak Canyon Nature Center
The flier advertising Zombie Survival Camp at Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim. (Courtesy of Oak Canyon Nature Center)

Traditionally, summer camps have informed children about the wilderness and taught them survival skills. Anaheim’s Oak Canyon Nature Center has been providing those and other educational components through its summer day camp experiences for many years.

Oak Canyon provides an entertaining format: themed summer camps. So, while campers are taught conventional skills through the themed camps it has offered for nearly 40 years, it has also adapted its curricula to teach skills that might come in handy during, say, a zombie apocalypse.

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Zombie Survival Camp is one of a series of camp experiences that the nature center has offered since it began themed camps in 1979, with Indian Summer, which featured a Native American-influenced curriculum.

Other themes include “Diggin’ Up Dinosaurs,” “Fin-tastic Shark Week,” “Top Secret Spy Week,” “Star Wars & Outer Space Week,” and “Harry Potter’s Wizarding Adventure.” Each provides a colorful setting for learning about science and nature and for the study of practical skills.

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Ryan Spagg, Oak Canyon Nature Center’s senior program specialist, provided insight into what Zombie Survival Camp has to offer.

“The teamwork and survival skill activities are introduced with zombie-related language; however, the presentations are real, practical information that teens can utilize in the event of an emergency incident, such as first-aid, building shelter and leadership,” Spagg said.

The idea for this particular themed camp came from a Scout.

“Zombie Survival Camp was developed by Sarah Heckel, a high school student who earned her Girl Scout Gold Award for implementing the program,” Spagg said. “Sarah identified a need for teen programming and worked with Oak Canyon Nature Center staff to implement this unique opportunity for participants 12 to 14 years old. She used her own outdoor experiences to create fun and engaging experiences focused on teamwork, leadership, survival skills, craft projects, games and guest speakers.”

As for the actual “zombies” that the campers will encounter, Spagg said the Anaheim Community Services Department recruits them through a community service program.

“[They provide] teens, 15 to 17 years of age, the opportunity to give back to their community and earn service hours through the summer VolunTEEN Program,” he said. “Teens can volunteer at various summer programs throughout Anaheim, including O.A.K.S. Summer Day Camp [and] Zombie Survival Camp.

“VolunTEENS assigned to Zombie Survival Camp conduct ‘attacks’ at various times throughout the week. Participants defend themselves with use of water balloons, Nerf blasters and water pistols.”

There are three Monday-through-Friday sessions available for folks interested in Zombie Survival Camp enrollment. Their next starting dates are July 9 and July 30 and each day lasts from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Each session costs $120. The prices of other themed camps vary.

Oak Canyon Nature Center is located at 6700 E. Walnut Canyon Road, in Anaheim.

Scott Feinblatt is a contributor to Times Community News.

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