The Starting Sparks of Environmental Stewardship
By Alex Griffith
Copper Environmental Foundation is a longstanding grantor to our local Summer CATCH Camp program. The Foundation is employee-managed and funded and has a natural partnership with KSS as we both seek to educate our youth and community on environmental stewardship through building genuine connections with the outdoors. This blog post by Program Manager, Alex Griffith, shares how our combined efforts help our local and youngest youth build connection with our beautiful outdoors.
A common thread runs throughout Keystone Science School’s summer programming: a wish to teach campers about their impact on the natural world.
That’s not to say this is all we do, by any means—camp is still camp, and there’s time for singing, crafts, and group games that don’t always have clear connections to environmental science. Those connections are there, however, from five-year-old day campers reciting some (and sometimes all!) of the seven Leave No Trace (LNT) principles, to high school campers on backcountry expeditions conducting stream surveys to learn about alpine water quality.
Leave No Trace is, naturally, one of the key parts from which all of our camp programs are built, and from the get-go, campers are taught that aiming to uphold the LNT principles is a noble goal.
Notably, however, it’s a goal that doesn’t require perfection. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect kindergarteners to be on the lookout for durable surfaces to walk on all the time, but if we can teach them that rocks and dirt are better to walk on than wild grasses or moss, that’s a core tenet of an environmental ethic that can be grown and expanded upon as they grow and, if they want to, spend more time outdoors.
Q & A with Allison D., Summer Camp Curriculum Specialist
This summer, Keystone Science School’s curriculum specialist was Allison D’Ambrosia, a 7th-grade science teacher on sabbatical for the season from her school-year job in State College, Pennsylvania. After summer’s end, we touched base with Allison to ask her about her time here at Keystone Science School, including some advice for teachers and her favorite outdoor activities in Summit County.
What has your journey as an educator looked like thus far?
I started out in high school as a camp counselor at the local YMCA. Later, throughout college, I was a summer volunteer at the Philadelphia Zoo, working as an exhibit interpreter and educator. I then interned at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, doing school-based programming, outdoor school, public programs, as well as adventure programs. There, I also completed my graduate assistantship for my degree in Curriculum and Instruction - Science Education. In 2009, after completing graduate school, I began teaching and I’ve been in the 7th-grade science classroom ever since! Next, I’ll be transitioning into the STEM coaching role for my district, which I’m pretty excited about.
What brought you to Keystone Science School?
I have always been drawn to environmental education and while skiing in the area, heard great things about the Science School. I was feeling the burnout of classroom teaching and also the draw to the mountains, so applied within my district to take a professional development sabbatical at KSS. When COVID hit, plans changed, but the school reached out about spending my summer writing curriculum.
What is your favorite KSS curriculum or outdoor education activity?
KSS Outdoor Education Core Competencies
Keystone Science School is well known for our exceptional programming. We collaborate with teachers to customize each program based on their goals for their students. Our wide variety of curriculum themes can be shaped to create a cohesive program. All our programs are place-based and we strive to create a unique and memorable experience that cannot be facilitated in a traditional classroom. Every KSS program aims to change lives and strengthen communities.
Each of our programs contains elements of environmental science, social-emotional learning, community building, and outdoor experience. Regardless of the curriculum theme, students will be in small groups (no more than 13) with one KSS Instructor and at least one chaperone. Each small group will go out on a separate trail for their field day, where they will engage with the curriculum in an outdoor classroom.
Students will study standards-based environmental science topics through engaging place-based activities. We strive to create a unique and memorable experience that cannot be facilitated in a traditional classroom. These activities are designed to be an enrichment to science that teachers teach in their classrooms. Groups may choose one environmental science topic, and can rank sub-topics based on preference.
Many of our topics can be delivered through two different teaching styles: exploration or environmental issue. In the exploration approach, students explore the curriculum topic through sensory-based activities, engaging games, and inquiry-based learning.
In the environmental issue approach, students study the curriculum topic through the lens of a stakeholder. Acting as their stakeholder, students discuss the issues and come together at the end of the program for a "Town Hall Meeting" to open a dialogue, collaborate, and offer solutions to their issue. This program teaches students to think critically and collaborate as opposed to compete in order to solve a challenging environmental issue facing their community.
Meet the 2021 Summer Staff
We're so excited to welcome our 2021 summer staff! This blog is ever-evolving and we plan to update the list with all instructors soon.
Building the best staff starts long before the sunny days of summer. Applicants go through a thorough interview process so that we can find those who best fit at the Keystone Science School. We believe that the key to exceptional camper and student experiences is having a professional, caring, and happy staff. While we have ongoing mentorship and meetings throughout the summer, the bulk of our training starts before any campers or students arrive. Learn more about our staff training.
Julia graduated in May 2019 from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry with a degree in Environmental Education and Interpretation. Since graduating, she’s worked as an outdoor educator in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Catalina Island, Northern Michigan, and as an Interpretive Ranger at Joshua Tree National Park. Julia loves spending time outside and sharing her love for the natural world with children.
Samantha has been with KSS for many years as a camper and counselor assistant (CAP), and always wanted to become a KSS counselor. She loves spending time in the outdoors and is excited to share the outdoors with day campers. Samantha is a student at Western Washington University studying environmental science, hoping to make a difference in the world.
Thomas "TC" B.
TC has been at KSS since he was 8 years old. “This place is my home, and nothing feels better than to give our next generation the camp experiences that I received when I was a camper. People can be themselves here, and that energy reflects in the campers too. I wanted to be part of that positive movement as a counselor.”
All of Erin’s previous jobs have been focused on science and the outdoors. After graduating high school in 2018, Erin worked at the summer camp she had gone to as a kid. There, she taught girls how to be confident in the outdoors and know that there was always a place for them in the field of outdoor recreation. Erin also worked at a children's museum in Reno where she taught all things science; static electricity, the human body, robots, physics, and space! “I love working with kids and teaching them about one of my favorite things--science and the outdoors!
Maya studied environmental science in college and took part in her school’s leadership training course for outdoor adventures. Maya also studied at a field station in Costa Rica, worked as a video editor for an environmental film production company, and her local newspaper, and then a magazine in Denver. “I spend every available second I can outside and want to help as many kids as possible do the same.”