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What is Keystone Science School?

KSS is Lake Dillon, The Continental Divide, Summit County, The Gore Range, The 10-Mile Range, thousands of trails, moose, elk, beavers, foxes, and so much more.

But above all else, KSS is the campers, teachers, students, volunteers, donors, community partners, and sponsors who make up our KSS family. 

YOU are KSS!

As we celebrate 40 years of spreading science, adventure, and fun at KSS, help us celebrate our history by telling your part of the KSS story.

#IamKSS on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and share a picture and a piece of the story. It can be a word that you think describes KSS and why. You can share a favorite memory or tell us how KSS has impacted your life or career.

You can also email your photo and story directly to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you'd like your submission to remain private, please let us know.

Thank you for being a part of our story.

Wherever I go #IamKSS

Henry TurnerHenry at the summit of Handies Peak in August 2016.

Keystone Science School is a place I call my second home. It is where they teach me survival skills I can use in the real world. I love the mythical creatures that wander around campus and all the good friends that I make. See you next summer! Thank you!

Henry is 10 years old and has been a KSS camper since 2013. He is from Chicago, Illinois.

Dan #IamKSS

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If I had to pick one word that describes Keystone Science School, I would say “foundational.” I say that because it is a true foundation for many people that have no experience in our natural setting. It can possibly create this situation where a next environmental leader, whether they live in Denver, out of state, or in an inner city area, can really understand the importance that the environment brings to everyone in the world. I believe it really creates that foundational base for future environmental leaders around the world.

Dan Gibbs is a Summit County Commissioner.

Cat #IamKSS

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My one word that I would use to describe KSS is home because for, I would say, half of my life, I’ve lived on this campus. Whether that’s in the dorms or in the lofts or in one of the little rustic cabins, this has become my home. Every summer I tell my staff, ‘This is going to be the greatest summer of your life!” And every summer this is the greatest summer of my life. And then I do it again, and realize THIS is the greatest summer of my life.

Cat Scanlan is the Assistant Director of Camp Programs and has been a part of KSS since the age of nine as a camper. 

Deb #IamKSS

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As a teacher I always felt like when people learn things with pleasure, they retain them for a lifetime. So as a teacher I wanted to provide, hands-on, fun, meaningful learning experiences and along the way I discovered that Keystone Science School has those same values. So for over 15 years I would bring my kids to Keystone Science School. At that time I was teaching 5th grade and it was just a wonderful experience having my students be outside learning about the environment and developing themselves and understanding that their personal choices really matter in this world.

Debra Mitchell is a retired Summit School District teacher and a KSS volunteer. 

KSS lives on within me!

Here's my story and my official science, adventure, fun update:

Science-
Currently I am working towards a master's degree in Agroecology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. One of the reasons I became interested in studying agriculture and food systems is that agricultural systems all around the world are responsible for an incredible amount of land degradation and environmental problems! Many agricultural systems deplete soil quality, water quality, biodiversity - many of the things we learn about at Keystone Science School. The current food system is also responsible for emitting massive amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. It needs to change, and it can change for the better! That's why I'm studying it, and trying to find my place in the 21st century food and farming revolution.

Adventure-
Norway has stolen my heart. I chose to study here for my master's degree as a way to push into my growth zone and extend my comfort zone. It's been an irreplaceable experience to journey through the Norwegian countryside, a beautiful landscape carved by glaciers. I've gone up above the Arctic Circle (and experienced a week-long arctic storm!) and back, meeting lots of new friends along the way. The whole time, I have taken the words of adventurer and educator Willi Unsoeld with me: "Risk is at the heart of all education."

Fun-
Sometimes students get very serious about their life and work. In one way, this is a positive thing, of course! However, it's so important to integrate fun into our lives. Right before I worked at KSS in the summer of 2013, one of my college friends told me that celebration was an essential part of sustainability. It was a revolutionary idea for me at the time. Working at KSS, I saw the celebratory aspect of sustainability come alive. I have come to honor joy and celebration as essential parts of life, and I appreciate that KSS keeps that celebration going, summer after summer, year after year. Rock on, KSS!

KSS lives on within me!

Doug #IamKSS

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It started with a warm hug like you would give a family member and a welcoming experience and one where there was excitement built around what was happening here. And it was obvious to me that a lot of people in this community and beyond really cared for what happened here at the Keystone Science School.

Doug Sims is the Chairman of the Keystone Science School Board of Directors.

Megan #IamKSS

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I’ll never forget one day when I was walking to the kitchen to put my lunch in the fridge – I’d maybe been working on campus a couple of weeks – I can’t remember if I was in a bad mood or something, but I wasn’t paying attention to anything. The kids were all eating breakfast and they were laughing and smiling and having these great conversations. I just stood there for a minute and I was like, “this is it!” I’ll never forget because I came straight into Marmot and into Ellen’s office and I said, “I get it! I just felt my heart grow. I get what this magic is!”

Megan Nuttelman is the Program Officer for The Summit Foundation and used to work for KSS as the Marketing and Development Director.

Ian #IamKSS

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I think in one word for me currently the Science School is a family. At first coming in my first summer 5 years ago it was very much a summer job. I soon found myself not ever wanting to leave camp and spending the night, even though was living over at my parents’ house at the time, crashing on people’s couches just to spend more time around camp. And ever since then some of the people that I met at camp have become my best friends in the world and KSS really has become a second family to me.

Ian McCluskie has worked at Keystone Science School in Camp Programs as well as School Programs.

Lee #IamKSS

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Hard to pick one word but after sorting through a bunch of them I was left with the word energy. I’m on campus a lot. Sometimes it’s changing light bulbs and sometimes it’s building something and the energy you feel in watching the kids do whatever they’re doing – cooperating on a project, learning something, doing snow science, taking water out of the river, whatever – the energy that exudes from that… it kinda gets inside you. That’s the one word I would use, the one that sticks with me.

Lee Henry is a KSS supporter and volunteer.

My True Self

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By: Jordan, longtime KSS camper

In the summer of 2009, I bounced up toward the Keystone Science School entrance. Carrying a suitcase who-knows-how-big, I pranced onto campus. I had no clue what I was about to do for the next week. All I knew was that I was going to sleep away camp, and I was excited. The answer to that question: I was about to have the week of a lifetime. Still living in Florida at the time, I had never backpacked, for Florida is a very unbackpacky state. I had never rafted before; Florida is a very unrafty state. The most outdoorsy I had been prior to KSS is a little bit of hiking. In Colorado. Florida is a very unhikey state. This amazing week has had a huge impact on my life, not so much because of that one week back in 2009, but because of the, now, seven years of KSS to follow.

Read more...

Thomas #IamKSS

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I would say that KSS makes science real. That’s my observation over the years in my interactions here. I see students here really connecting science for the first time to their own lives and their own environment.

Thomas Davidson is a Summit County Commissioner. 

Ellen #IamKSS

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I am KSS and this is my story. As the ED of Keystone Science School I’m so grateful for all the people I get to work with every day. But I’m also a mother so my experience with KSS is two-fold. When I think of KSS I think of the children that are running around and they’re learning and their lives are changing and their stories are being built. But I also think of my children. My 10 year old daughter, Logan, and my 8 year old son, Zander. And I think of how proud I am that they hiked a 14er by themselves with a group of other kids equally excited to challenge themselves and get to the top of something so grand. I also think of my daughter’s smile and my son’s smile when I see them after camp for the first time. It’s something different than I ever see and they come running toward me with a smile that’s so genuine and so pure and so real. I can’t even make them smile like that. That is the Science School. That is what we do. We create deep memories that build children, build independence and inspire curiosity and I’m so proud that I get to be a small part of this.

Ellen Reid is the Executive Director of Keystone Science School. 

Josh #IamKSS

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KSS has actually taught me a lot. They’ve taught me to come out and be myself. To know who I am and to show people who I really am. I’ve actually learned a lot at KSS in how I can express myself in different ways. And I’ve gotten more people’s attention and more people’s respect because of KSS because they taught me how to be myself with other people and to interact with them.

Josh Gelman is a member of the 2016 Camp Leadership Board and a student at Denver School of the Arts.

Ashly #IamKSS

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I think that moment when you summit the mountain is what really defines Keystone Science School because you achieve something you’ve never achieved before and you feel accomplished. Being at the summit of that mountain made me feel victorious, proud. Going through being away from home for the first time and being around completely different people but reaching the summit, it’s like it was all worth it to be able to experience that.

Ashly Apfelbeck is a student at Summit High School and a KSS camper for 7 years.

I am KSS

#IamKSS video 

by NiccoRaphael