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Interactive Education to Inspire and Engage

 Lydia mine

A few months ago I applied through the Alcoa Foundation for a generous sponsorship to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to attend Key Issues Institute at Keystone Science School.

I was so excited when I was lucky enough to be selected, along with Andy Brennan, from a primary school close to me in Birmingham, UK. After months of anticipation and excitement, then a long flight over from England it is now time to go home to put into practice what I have learned. I have met some fantastic people and gained some amazing Lydia morning hikeideas, which I can't wait to share with my colleagues back home at my school in Birmingham, my students, and the staff at the Kitts Green Alcoa Plant in Birmingham, UK.

I am always looking for new ways to engage my students and this experience has proved invaluable to be able to rejuvenate my teaching. I have learned new interactive ways to draw graphs (3D and human bar charts), how to include more literacy (poems and limericks) and role play into my lessons, which will enthuse my students hopefully resulting in more enjoyment, engagement and them achieving higher grades.

Thank you Alcoa Foundation and Keystone Science School for this amazing adventure.


Christmas in July

Darcie preblog

The 2013-2014 school year is now complete, my students are gone, and one would think that I would want a quiet, relaxing summer vacation. No way! I am so excited! I feel like a child right before the holidays, looking at the huge box under the tree with my name on it, eagerly awaiting the big day when I finally get to open my present. The huge gift I’ve been given is a sponsorship from the Alcoa Foundation to attend an exciting week of STEM professional development and experiential learning at Key Issues Institute in Keystone, Colorado. I can hardly wait to spend a week learning and playing at Keystone Science School and learning new ways to bring science to life for my students back here in Massena, NY!

Teaching 6th Grade Earth Science is my passion. Helping my young students to understand and make connections with our beautiful planet is so important to me as they become active and engaged citizens of Earth. I can hardly wait to test, observe, predict, explore, measure, and then to come back and have my students do all of this too.

Thank you SOOOOOOO much, Alcoa Foundation, and see you soon Keystone Science School!


High Quality Education at High Altitude


Jen Szegda Mountains

Sadly, Sunday was my last day at Key Issues Institute. Alcoa Foundation sponsored my trip from Michigan to the town of Silverthorne, Colorado. I spent a week at high attitude learning about high quality lessons that I can use in my classroom. The strategies and activities that I learned about at Key Issues will enhance my existing sixth grade science curriculum.Jen Szegda Summit

3-D Contour MapFinding latitude and longitude on a map can be confusing for sixth graders, but this fall I will teach it using a geo caching activity that my students will never forget. By the time students get to sixth grade, they are tired of bar graphs, but this year they will learn to create a 3-D bar graph to share their data. Mapping will be more fun when my students build their own contour maps. Instead of reading about balance in an ecosystem and population growth and decline, students will become deer searching for water, food, and shelter. They will then engage in an interactive game to model real life interactions within an ecosystem. Students can read about water quality and then they can go outside and test a local stream for physical, chemical, and biological health.

These are just a few of the many new strategies and activities that I learned at Keystone Science School's Key Issues Institute that fit my curriculum in Michigan. I am thrilled that Alcoa Foundation sent me to high altitude to help me elevate the quality of my teaching.



What my students learned at KSS

Ranger Rick1

In my backyard there is a world class educational facility – Keystone Science School. As a teacher in Summit County for over 20 years, the Science School taught snow science and ecology concepts to my students, but really they did much more. The knowledge, enthusiasm, and hands-on approach to learning laid the foundation for global stewardship.  The students in my classes realized the beauty that nature holds, as well as the responsibility that each of us has. In my backyard there is a gem. That gem is Keystone Science School.

 Ranger Rick2

The photographs are borrowed from a 2008 article in Ranger Rick magazine featuring the snow science curriculum as part of KSS's School Programs.

Changing Our Water Future

Water policyHave you ever seen a group of kids more excited to be with their state representatives? This is the kind of academic exhilaration inspired by our newest policy-based program, Basin Voyage. This hybrid program crosses the academic rigor of Youth Policy Summit with the kind of fun and adventure that any KSS camper can experience on one of our Keystone Mountain Adventures. The result is an action-packed, 6-day adventure that brings young people right into the heart of water issues in Colorado. From learning about flood irrigation on a western Colorado ranch to debating the use of damming and hydroelectric power on Colorado’s rivers, Basin Voyage participants are literally getting wet and wild while they learn. 

Our first ever Basin Voyage took place last week, June 8th - 14th. The students met Colorado Representatives Don Coram and Jerry Sonnenberg during their final project presentation to a group of experts, stakeholders, and legislators. The students and their leaders had an amazing time and learned more about water issues in western states in one week than many of us learn in a lifetime. 

Mountain Sports Kayak School out of Steamboat, Colorado taught students to kayak on the Yampa River. Students took turns paddling around on calm waters, playing in eddies, and practicing their technique. After playing in the water students took water samples and learned to test water quality. 

Kayak Basin VoyageStudents camped out every night in some of the most beautiful parts of Colorado, and always close to water. “While walking through dams, hiking by raging rivers, and kayaking directly on the Yampa River, I felt wholly in touch with the variety of adventures that come with a healthy water supply,” wrote one high school student of his experience. “Most importantly though, were the campsites we lived in for the past five days. The surrounding view from Steamboat Lake State Park was breathtaking, and it is a view of nature that I hope my children and grandchildren will get the opportunity to see as well.” So do we, my friend. So do we.