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Q & A with Allison D., Summer Camp Curriculum Specialist

allison kss 1This 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?

I loved seeing the day camp kids set off rockets this summer. We tried different methods of propulsion and all of them generated lots of enthusiasm.

What do you hope campers gain through their experience at KSS?

I hope campers gain a curiosity about the world around them and a respect for the space they call home. If they leave here excited about science and the outdoors I think we have been successful.

allison kss 2What have you learned while working at KSS? What will you bring back to the classroom?

I’ve learned how to differentiate curriculum for various age groups and programs, be continuously flexible, and help create the camp magic mix of education and fun. I will bring even more wonder back to my classroom, having had a good reminder of the awe of science and the fun it can be (which you sometimes lose in the hustle of standards and testing). I have also reinforced the value of community and teamwork. Surrounding yourself with good people, who are passionate about what they’re doing is rejuvenating.

What can classroom educators gain through outdoor education?

Outdoor education is the definition of inquiry. Student engagement is high and motivation is greater to participate as they explore the world around them at their own pace. Bringing those inquiry and engagement concepts into the classroom setting is something every traditional teacher could benefit from.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to take a sabbatical as a K-12 educator?

Do it!! It has been both rejuvenating and beneficial to my classroom experience. I have grown both as a person as well as an educator, gaining lots of new ideas and experiences. I can’t wait to bring some of these activities and ideas home to my students! The community of KSS is second to none and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of it!

What is your favorite Summit County adventure?

This is such a hard question! My favorite will likely always be playing in the snow on my skis in the bowls at Breck, or the trees of Keystone and A-Basin. This summer I am most proud of summiting Buffalo, which was a big challenge for me!