PALM DESERT, Calif. -

Local businesses and organizations are offering a variety of summer activities -- including animal encounters and cooking classes -- for children starting this month.

   A sampling:

   -- The Living Desert in Palm Desert will hold its Summer ZooCamp for ages 4-12 from June 23-Aug. 1. Weekly half-day sessions, which run 8 a.m. to noon, are divided by age group. Themes include ``Treasure Explorers'' and  `Desert Safari,'' and children will get ``behind the scenes'' tours of the zoo, learn about science and animals, play games and do crafts, according to zoo spokeswoman Rebecca Brown. Cost is $170 per session for members and $200 for non-members.  For a schedule and to register, go to www.livingdesert.org.

   -- The Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert in Rancho Mirage will hold its Summer Discovery Camp for ages 5-9 from June 16-Aug. 15. One-week sessions run from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and each week has a different theme.  Children will do projects and learn about topics such as food and science.  Themes include ``Moving and Grooving,'' ``Design It, Create It'' and ``Movie  Effects,'' according to spokeswoman Jessica Rees. Cost is $170 a week for members and $195 for non-members. For information and to register, go to www.cdmod.org.

   -- Cooking with Class, a cooking instruction and catering business in La Quinta, will offer summer cooking camps for ages 5-15 from June 16-Aug. 15.  One-week sessions start at 10 a.m., and each week will cater to a different age  group.  Sessions include the popular ``Cooking Like a Food Network Star'' for ages 8-12 -- which will be offered for two weeks because of popularity --  ``Chopped'' for ages 11-15, and ``Baking & Pastry Camp'' for ages 11-15.  All  participants learn about safety and sanitation, nutrition and manners, and get  recipes to take home.  At the end of each camp, students prepare a banquet for  their parents, according to spokeswoman Andrea Carter. For a schedule, prices  and registration, go to www.cookingwithclasslaquinta.com.

   Additionally, several local libraries, including Cathedral City, Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, have started or will start youth summer reading programs this month.