How does spending 6 days exploring the fascinating world of veterinary medicine with other future veterinarians just like you sound? Want to learn about animal anatomy and get up-close and personal with alpacas, cows, raptors, and exotic animals? Interested in learning how to perform a physical exam on a pet or getting a microscopic view of parasites? Then the Auburn Junior Vet Camp may be just the place for you. This amazing vet camp gives future veterinarians an opportunity to explore many different areas of veterinary medicine and get to know other kids in the same age group who have the same dream of becoming a veterinarian.
Held every summer in June or July on the college campus, the Auburn Junior Vet Camp offers 6th to 8th graders an exciting overview of animal health and veterinary science, as well as a glimpse into what working veterinarians deal with from day to day. The camp features a good mix of interactive and hands-on sessions in classrooms, laboratories, and outdoor facilities.
“I think since our camp is run entirely by veterinary students, it offers a unique perspective into our world. We remember what it was like to be that age, and it’s the age most of us started really gaining an interest in veterinary medicine."
In addition, the camp counselors are veterinary students currently attending Auburn University. Why is that important? Megan Hesson, one of the counselors, explains, “I think since our camp is run entirely by veterinary students, it offers a unique perspective into our world. We remember what it was like to be that age, and it’s the age most of us started really gaining an interest in vet med. This helps us know how to better engage the students to make the camp a more rewarding experience because 10 years ago, we were all walking in their shoes.”
The counselors coordinate with faculty members, professors, and clinicians to make the vet camp experience as interesting and informative as possible. When coming up with camp activities, the counselors keep fun in mind, but they also include learning experiences that accurately depict what the veterinary students are being taught in school. “One of our favorite professors always says ‘You didn’t come to vet school to pet puppies and kittens,’ so we tried to paint as good of a picture as we could about the many responsibilities of a veterinarian,” Megan says.
Here are some of the featured sessions:
Campers spend several hours in a simulated “surgery suite.” First, they gown, glove, and mask, the way veterinarians do for surgery. Then they rotate through stations that contain mock situations, with training dummies standing in for real animals. Everyone gets to practice:
A counselor assists at each station, first showing the campers how to perform each task and then helping the campers to try it themselves.
For the parasitology session, the campers also rotate through stations. They use a microscope to view various parasites, including heartworms, horse bots, flukes, ticks, and intestinal worms.
In the pathobiology lab, campers learn about blood and get to do some hands-on work, drawing up blood into a capillary tube, then spinning the blood in a centrifuge and reading the results. They also examine blood smears on slides through a multiheaded teaching microscope (one with multiple stations) so everyone in the group can look at the slides together.
This experience tends to be popular with both campers and counselors. The session is held in state-of-the-art barns, where the campers get to interact with and touch all of the animals, including alpacas, llamas, cows, goats, and sheep.
“Most of the campers who come here haven’t ever gotten to touch a cow, and when they’re here, they get to practice physical exams on [the animals],” Megan says.
The campers also get to:
For camp counselor Ashley Thompson, this is her favorite day “because most kids don’t get the opportunity to see and understand where their food and milk come from and [how much] goes into caring for these animals.”
Future veterinarians fascinated by amphibians, reptiles, and pocket pets may get a kick out of the exotic pet session. Not only are campers taught about these animals, but if they’re brave enough, they get a chance to handle them too. Counselors at different stations educate about tarantulas, turtles, lizards, rabbits, Guinea pigs, and snakes (which campers can have draped around their neck).
Campers spend a session learning about the college’s famed Southeastern Raptor Center, home of the War Eagles. The War Eagles are a series of golden eagles dating back to the late 1800s who symbolize Auburn University. Although the kids aren’t allowed to touch the birds, they get to see and learn about other species, such as falcons, vultures, owls, and even a bald eagle, as well.
A demonstration on working dogs is also featured during the camp. Auburn trains working dogs, so the kids get to see a guide dog and a detection dog in action.
At the Auburn Junior Vet Camp, you’ll get to meet a group of kids who are as excited to learn about veterinary medicine as you. “It allows the kids to make new friends who have the same interests as they do,” Ashley says.
“The camp is basically a weeklong crash course in veterinary medicine.”
You’ll also spend time on teamwork and group building. “Our campers are divided into 4 different teams, and we host different competitions for the teams to earn points throughout the week,” Megan explains. “Because so much of our profession deals with working in partners and groups, this is an essential skill.”
The counselors agree that the camp can help tweens decide if they want to pursue veterinary medicine. “I think it’s so important to understand what veterinary medicine is all about before you decide to commit your life to it,” Megan says. “This camp is a great way for young students to get their feet wet and really see if this is what they want to do as a career.”
Ashley points out that the camp provides a great opportunity for aspiring veterinarians because the campers get to see and do similar things to what the veterinary students themselves are learning and doing. “It can be an eye opener for some kids because veterinary medicine is not always cute little puppies and kittens,” Ashley says. “It can be gross and stinky sometimes—quite often, actually.”
“The camp is basically a weeklong crash course in vet med,” Megan says, “and it’s just a small taste of what veterinarians and veterinary students do on a daily basis.”
To find out about future camps, visit the Office of Professional and Continuing Education website. Demand is often quite high for veterinary camps, and there are usually many more applicants than available slots. This is certainly true of the popular Auburn Junior Vet Camp. Although the camp is held during the summer, registration typically starts in December and only stays open for about 2 months. If you want to attend the camp, don’t delay! Talk with your parents about this opportunity now, and apply as soon as enrollment opens.
If you want to learn more about vet camps and other steps you can take today to become a veterinarian of tomorrow, check out the Vet Set Go! book in the Products section. This book gives more information on vet camps and features a specific Action Plan on how to find the right veterinary camp for you—right now! You can also visit the Activities section to find a veterinary camp near you and learn what other future veterinarians are saying about the camps.