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Planning KMA: Great Sand Dunes National Park

A hidden gem amidst the Rocky Mountain Range, The Great Sand Dunes National Park is a paradise of diverse microhabitats from desolate desert to alpine ridges.

Sand Dunes

This summer, Keystone Mountain Adventures (KMA) will dive into this amazing landscape during our 13-day Research Focus trip. When planning this trip I thought to myself, What teenager would want to spend their summer doing research? The many experiences that comprise this program make it much more than a simple research project. In many schools today there can be a disconnect between classroom education and real-world application, due to an entirely indoor classroom or lab setting. At its very essence, science is the study of the world around us and students rarely have the chance to experience that world indoors. Although classrooms offer a more organized and fundamental take on science, the research involved in this trip will give teenagers the chance to get dirty and experience the kind of science that field researchers do in their careers every day.

We designed Keystone Mountain Adventures to be so much more than a research trip. It’s the backpacking trip of a lifetime, a white water rafting adventure, a chance to challenge yourself with rock climbing, and finally soaking it all in at the beautiful river-side pools at Princeton Hot Springs.

I have led multiple trips for Keystone Science School, but have never been more excited than I am for this one. Not only do these teenagers grow more confident and independent, but they also become smarter, more balanced individuals in every aspect. Unknowingly, even to myself on my first trip, campers all become a part of a new family of peers that can only be found on an adventure like this.  The magic that happens on these trips that can never be explained, only experienced.

What a difference a dollar makes

3182014 Schoolership group

We work hard to create memorable experiences for our students. It is a collaborative effort from not only our staff but also our funders. The letter below is a passionate declaration from classroom teacher Jaime Baker of Welby Montessori, to a funder who provided a Schoolership that allowed her students to experience a KSS School Program. I feel her letter does a great job of describing the impact KSS can have on students.  

"Thank you so much for your generous donation to sponsor our students at Keystone Science School. Our students come from severely impacted backgrounds that limit their ability to experience the outdoors and science together. Many of the fifth graders who came to Keystone with us had never been in the mountains before. It was an amazing experience for them and they learned about themselves as well as about science during our trip.

The experience increased their self-confidence and built stronger relationships among them and with us, their teachers. They learned that they can try new experiences and have fun figuring it out. I know that this experience is one that my students will never forget. It is a positive memory and experience that will remind them that learning can be fun."

Jaime Baker
Welby Montessori3182014 Mtn Embrace

Snow Day

It was a Thursday and it was a whiteout – one of the first major snowfalls of the season. Big, fat flakes fell heavy and thick and I thought for sure the School Programs instructors would cancel the hike planned for the day. Silly me. We layered up, packed our lunches, filled our water bottles and piled into vans. My group headed to Montezuma to hike the road leading up to Saints John. The snow was already 10 inches deep and still falling as we parked and began our 3 mile hike with close to 1,000ft of elevation gain. The students stopped every so often to slide down hills or flop down to make snow angels. At lunch we jumped up and down, ran around, and played games to keep warm as the snow piled up on our shoulders and soaked into our sandwiches.

3.11.14 SP field dayWe stopped at overlooks and old mines with the rocky peaks towering above us for lessons in geomorphology – the kids were learning about plate tectonics, rock layers, and other earth science principles. Our fearless school programs instructor, Rachel Zacher, kept the students engaged by making the lessons fun and inclusive. She had a practically magical way of dispelling whining by empowering rather than chastising the kids. She showed them that they had all the tools and skills they needed to take care of themselves and to my amazement they all rose to the challenge.

By the end of the hike I’d relearned a lot about the planet I call home, made some friends, and realized how amazing KSS really is. More than anything I came home that day with a buzz and excitement, not just about my job, but about life in general. I had that satisfying exhaustion that comes from trudging through deep snow for hours. I’d spent a day outside laughing and running and playing and focusing on how beautiful these mountains can be blanketed in fresh snow.

What is Keystone Science School?

2.25.14 Follow MeKeystone Science School is so much more than meets the eye. It is more than 38 years of quality programming, more than 23 acres of campus surrounded by beautiful mountain views. KSS is an organization made up of amazing individuals – staff who are passionate about the work they do each day, a Board of Directors who understand and invest in the mission and vision, volunteers who go above and beyond what they’re called to do, generous donors who make it possible for us to continue our mission, and the kids who fill our campus with learning and laughter every day.

These are the people who embody our core values to change lives and foster open, honest relationships. To strive for excellence and find joy in teaching and learning. To ask questions and seek solutions, and to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and impact.

KSS changes lives through these relationships and people. We invite you to “Follow Me” as we take you out in the field with students, adventuring to the tops of mountains, traveling the country educating teachers, and frolicking around right here in Keystone.

Check in each Tuesday and join us for a new adventure!

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