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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?

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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.

Environmental Science

environmental scienceStudents 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.

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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.

Day Camp

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Julia C.
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.

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Samantha C.
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.

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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.” 

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Erin M.
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! 

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Maya C.
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.” 

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Four Exciting Day Trips from Summit County

day trips from summit county co kss

So you’ve explored everything Summit County has to offer? Really? Well, luckily we’re surrounded by so many cool places within a short drive. Whether you’re looking for historical towns, a place to relax, or more mountain time, this list will get your wheels turning.

  • Leadville - Drive about an hour out of Frisco and reach Leadville, one of the most charming mountain mining towns in the Rockies. Its main street includes some great thrift stores, coffee shops, and the famous Melanzana Clothing Company (get there early - there’s often a line!)
  • Glenwood Hot Springs - Glenwood Hot Springs is about 2 hours west of Summit County and has the best hot springs in the state. The town of Glenwood itself also has great shopping, restaurants, and adventures - including an amusement park at the top of a canyon, cave tours, and rafting!
  • Browns Canyon Rafting - About 2 hours south from Keystone, you’ll reach Buena Vista - home to Browns Canyon! Here, down the Arkansas River, you’ll find some of the best rafting in the state. It’s also KSS’s favorite rafting destination - so don’t be surprised if you run into the Hot Pink Gorilla along the way!
  • Rocky Mountain National Park - If you drive two hours north of Keystone, you can get to Rocky Mountain National Park. There are beautiful scenic views, easy to advanced hiking, lots of Colorado wildlife, and other great outdoor activities. Only a little bit of time? Try some of the park’s scenic drives instead!

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Summer Activities for Teens in Summit County

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There is so much adventure to be had for teens in Summit County in the Summer months. The Rocky Mountains offer up trails for biking and hiking, cliffs for climbing, and rivers to run. When you've had enough vitamin D and forest bathing, there are lots of fun things to do indoors as well.  Use this list to take on the day as a family or give teens their space to explore on their own. There's something for everyone here at 9,000ft! 

  • Biking - Summit County has some of the most beautiful and challenging biking in the state. There are hundreds of mountain biking trails and recreational paths so both beginners and experts can find the perfect summer bike ride. 
  • Green Mountain Reservoir - About 20 miles north of Silverthorne, is Green Mountain Reservoir, the best spot for lake swimming, water sports, and beach days in Summit!
  • Breckenridge Epic Discovery Park - At the base of Peak 8, there is an adventure park for kids, teens, and adults alike. The park includes a zipline, alpine slide, rock climbing, and more!
  • Rock Climbing - There are tons of great spots throughout Summit County to go rock climbing. Check out Haus Rock in Montezuma, Windy Point on Swan Mountain, or Frisco Bouldering. If your teen is a beginner there are also great climbing gyms in Silverthorne and Breckenridge!
  • Movie Theaters (Dillon or Breckenridge) - Rainy day? Skyline Cinema is centrally located in Dillon and is Summit County’s largest movie theater. There is always a collection of the newest movies. If you’re in Breckenridge you can check out the Speakeasy Movie Theater which shows both blockbuster movies and small independent movies.
  • Escape Rooms - Breckenridge and Frisco each have Escape Rooms and is a great way to engage any teen. Schedule your time and see if they are up to the challenge!
  • Community Events - Summit County is full of community events all summer long whether it’s outdoor concerts, food festivals, and public art. Check out the events calendar in the Summit Daily (local newspaper) and see what’s happening in Summit County during your stay.

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