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Passing the Baton

2011 Fall H2O Outdoors 101 Denver Water

In the year 2060, I plan to still be taking my annual summer excursion to Dillon Reservoir with my wife and kids. But will the environment be different?

Sure, I expect to have grandchildren joining me at that time, and possibly a different mode of transportation (teleportation anyone?). But, what will water managers of the future be dealing with? A wetter or drier climate? A Front Range with twice as many people? An altered timeframe of when snowmelt feeds Dillon Reservoir?

Just like Denver Water’s forefathers planned and designed a water system that meets today’s needs, our current experts are planning 25 and even 50 years into the future — when today’s youth will be leading the way. So, why not start working with them now?

That’s where Denver Water’s youth education program comes in. We provide students with a deeper appreciation of water’s importance in our daily lives through hands-on, locally relevant experiences.

And, because managing water in Colorado is not a West Slope vs. East Slope issue — but instead one of cooperation — it is important to communicate with our youth that when it comes to water in the dry West, we are all in this together.

To ensure the next generation of water leaders understands the importance of collaboration and partnerships in dealing with water issues in Colorado, Denver Water has become a proud sponsor of the H2O Outdoors program at Keystone Science School.

By partnering with Aurora Water and the Colorado River District, this free program provides a holistic view of Colorado water resources, policies and issues. Additionally, the program includes high school students from all over Colorado, opening the door for them to build relationships across the divide.

I’m honored to return to KSS this year for the Colorado water stakeholder’s panel, and I’m eager to talk, learn and collaborate with our water leaders of tomorrow.

-Travis Thompson is Senior Media Coordinator for Denver Water

Key Issues In Action

JenSzegda kids workingJenSzegda class project

My sixth grade students in Montague, Michigan are thrilled that Alcoa Foundation sponsored my travel to Silverthorne, Colorado in June to attend Key Issues Institute with Keystone Science School. In the first few months of school, I have been using my knowledge from Key Issues to teach my students about environmental issues in the community. My students have learned about environmental citizenship, and we are beginning to study environmental issues in our area. Many of the strategies and activities that I have been using to bring the environmental issues into my classroom come from Key Issues Institute, like working with maps, analyzing surveys, creating stakeholder grids, discussing possible causes of issues, and learning about sustainable options. My students plan to use their new knowledge and skills to create a plan and take action in our community.

The Key Issues framework has been a valuable resource and planning tool to tie in with my Michigan curriculum in teaching science and environmental issues in my area. Thank you Alcoa Foundation! You have made a huge impact on my teaching and my students’ learning.

Hats Off to You

testimonials blog

Probably the best part of our jobs at KSS is hearing from our program participants about how their experiences have impacted their lives. Here are a couple of our favorites from this summer’s Key Issues Institute. Thank you all for your kind words. Your energy, enthusiasm, and innovation keep us inspired to constantly challenge ourselves and improve our programs. Hats off to you!

I sent you a thank you before, but let me say it again. :) I have attended other conferences and training sessions, but this was by far the best. It was a wonderful experience of hands-on inquiry learning - science teachers are asked to teach in an inquiry method, but we seldom get the chance to learn in an inquiry method. It was a great mix of interacting with other teaching professionals from around the country, exchanging ideas, learning new science and classroom methods. We were given the chance to be creative, goofy, explore, do science, and take on the role of an investigator. I have plenty of new ideas and lesson plans I can easily tweak a bit, or use directly in my classroom this fall. I learned a TON.
Thank you again, and keep up the good work.
Key Issues 2014 Participant

I work in a high-minority and low-income Denver community, and providing a high-quality science education is paramount to providing students with a path out of poverty. I am so excited to bring all I learned back to them this fall. Thanks again!
Key Issues 2014 Participant


The Power of Silence

Rachel Blog girls

Working at Keystone Science School has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Everyday I get to have amazing experiences with children in an outdoor setting. As magical as it is, it can be easy to get bogged down with the details and intricacies of each day. It can be almost impossible to see the changes we are making before the students leave.

A few weeks ago I was hiking with students on Minnie Mine trail in Breckenridge. The students were studying earth science. We covered topics like plate tectonics, mining history, landforms, rocks, minerals, and a handful of other topics. On this particular day I was focused on stepping up the curriculum for this academically-driven group.

At the end of the day the students participated in a solo hike in which they walked in silence for about 10 minutes. Following the hike, we debriefed the experience and for many this was the first time they had walked in silence. Primarily students mentioned something cool they saw along they way or something they heard. I was about to wrap up the conversation when a rather rowdy student raised his hand. I was expecting a silly response but to my surprise he said, “I think you realize a lot more things when you are quiet.” He than went on to talk about this new realization and how much he gained in that 10 minutes.

Maybe I am being nostalgic but it was exactly what I needed to hear that day. We make a huge difference here at the Science School, and even if I never see the change in these students lives, I know that I am doing something amazing.

Love is in the air!

Elk in RMNP

A group of KSS field instructors and I visited Rocky Mountain National Park recently to witness the yearly elk rut for ourselves. Much like people the male elk do everything they can to impress the ladies. Male elk (bucks) who do so with Dicaprian skill can build harems (groups of ladies) of over 30. These lady elk (cows) are drawn to intimidating racks of antlers, loud bugling (elk yelling), impressive muscles, and passionate confessions of love aboard glamorous boats.

We had the good fortune of observing over a couple of hours one male elk with an impressive rack—seven points—build his harem from 28 to 29, then back to 28, and then up to 31. Elk are prone to drama, if you didn't know. At one point he swung his horns into a nearby pine tree's branches to intimidate his competitors, of which there were several out in the open fields near Bear Lake. Soon after he acquired his 31st companion he decided to take a seat and rest while a pair of other males fought a few hundred yards away. It was an impressive sight and well worth the long drive from Summit County to Rocky Mountain National Park.

I've learned much about the wonders of biology in the past few months at Keystone Science School. I now know that some arctic fish can produce their own antifreeze, and that some bacteria breathe iron, and that trees can share nutrients through fungal connections. And now that I've seen the dramatic dating rituals of elk first hand, I'm feeling relieved to be a human.