The Carolina Raptor Center is offering more summer camps this year and for a wider range of ages than in past years.
The weeklong summer camps are designed for four age groups. The center offers programs that are full-day, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and half-day, from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Jim Warren, vice president and chief operating officer, said the center tries to make the camps exciting for the children as well as educational.
"All of our camps have an environmental mission," he said. "A lot of what we do isn't the traditional arts and crafts."
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"Our camp size is small, which makes for a staff-to-camper ratio (that is) extremely good," said Warren.
The camp sizes are limited to 12-15 kids, so the camps tend to fill up quickly, he added.
One of the most popular camps is "Hawkwarts: A Camp for Muggles," so much that it's being run three times this summer. A play on Hogwarts School from the "Harry Potter" book series, the camp is for ages 8-12 and includes science experiments and art projects.
"In potions class, they learn how to make ice cream and take care of magical creatures. They make wands, and the staff and junior counselors wear robes," Warren said.
There are other camps too, including a new camp for ages 4-6 called Eager Eaglets, where the children learn about raptors and the environment.
Canoeing, nature photography and geocaching is available for ages 11-14 in the Radical Raptors Adventures camp, said Warren.
Geocaching allows the campers to use a GPS device to find buried "treasures."
Optional overnights are offered for every camp except Eager Eaglets and are limited to a group of 12-15 campers.
"We do a dinner for them, and we do a variety of programs including a night hike, where we bring some of the owls out and they have some fun," said Warren.
Campers enjoy camp songs and make s'mores.
"They sleep in tents here in the park," Warren said.
Registration ends May 31.
The ability to keep the doors open and camps running comes from volunteers at the Carolina Raptor Center.
"Truly, we couldn't operate without volunteers," Warren said.
The nonprofit recently had cutbacks leaving only 10 staff members, although the economy has helped in a good way, Warren said, referring to the volunteers eagerness to help.
More than 300 volunteers come out regularly, he said, which has allowed the organization to keep giving back to the community.
Children as young as age 11 can volunteer, although they have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian until age 16. For children to volunteer without a parent present, they can become junior counselors.
Volunteers do everything from painting, building cages, working in the gift shop, teaching educational programs, helping out with surgeries in the rehabilitation facility and working with raptors.
Those interested in volunteering can find an application on the raptor center's Web site, or they can apply in person at the center.