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Jakiya Harris,13, front left, Terriona Richards,13, front right, and fellow Camp Discovery members practice their photography skills while following a peacock during the group's photo trip to the Scovill Zoo Thursday.

DECATUR – Aniyah Austin was a little afraid of the penguins at Scovill Zoo at first.

“I went into the cool cave,” she said, referring to a glass-covered pop-up area where visitors can crawl in and stand up inside the penguin exhibit. “It was kind of scary to suddenly have a penguin's face right here,” she added, putting her hand an inch in front of her face.

It's true that the penguins seem to enjoy staring at the humans as much as the humans like watching the penguins, and the birds hang around by the glass waiting for people to pop up. They aren't shy about going eyeball-to-eyeball with them, either.

Camp Discovery's sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students visited the zoo Thursday to practice taking photos. Each child was equipped with a digital camera courtesy of the Decatur Family YMCA and Decatur schools.

The overall theme of camp is “space,” but these kids have tried cooking, gardening, water purification and a field trip to the South Water Treatment Plant, and now photography. They take at least one excursion each week.

“The idea is that a meteor or asteroid is going to hit Earth and we have to start all over,” said counselor Terri Dunham. “They try to give them real life experiences for what they're seeing and what they're doing.”

This group will also study engineering and transportation and learn about building shelters, Dunham said.

Because kids in the summer program come from schools all over the city, many of them didn't know each other before camp started, and the first step was the team-building course at Rock Springs Nature Center, to help them begin to work together as a team, she said.

The photos the kids took will be transferred to iPads, and counselor Steve Ropp will help them look through the photos to determine which ones are “good” and which aren't, though that's sometimes a matter of opinion.

“It's subjective,” he said. “Some people like photos that aren't necessarily well-composed, and don't like photos that are.”

The kids started off with one of the zoo's many peacocks, who was walking around near the arched gate and at first, didn't care to stop walking long enough to pose for pictures. They met Zeke, the female red-tailed boa, who was holding court on a picnic table with one of the zookeepers, and several campers took photos of her.

The penguins were popular, but Thursday is free admission at the zoo and the penguins were popular with all the visitors, making it a little more challenging to get good photos. The goats were the most cooperative subjects.

“I think this is fun,” said Jakiya Harris.


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