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Witness Comet Leonard Now Through Christmas!

Comet Leonard Is Back!

By “Astro” Mark Laurin, Keystone Science School Adjunct Instructor & Volunteer


 Since Comet Leonard was discovered almost a year ago, and during that time, its orbit brought it closer and closer to the Earth and the Sun.  The closer it gets to the Sun, the longer its tail and coma grow in color and size.  Up until now, in order to see the comet, it required being a hearty soul, committed to achieving full consciousness before early dawn, and having the aid of magnifying optics as the comet couldn’t be seen with the unaided eye.   But now, Comet Leonard, a long period comet, having let 70,000 years pass since its last flyby of Earth, is now giving all the world an encore appearance at a more reasonable hour.  That’s right, for us here in the northern hemisphere, the show begins in the early evening in the southwestern sky.  For the next three days, if conditions stay true, you should be able to see Comet Leonard with your naked eye and wave “hello and goodbye” to our interplanetary traveler.

Finders Keepers

Comet C/2021 A1, Comet Leonard, was named after its discoverer, American astronomer Gregory J. Leonard.  Mr. Leonard is a researcher working at the Mount Lemmon Infrared Observatory, and he identified the comet near the planet Jupiter on January 3rd, 2021.  Comet Leonard is a dirty ice ball made up predominantly of methane, ammonia, and water gasses that has a few miles under its belt to make its holiday appearance.  About 35,000 years ago, it was on the opposite side of its elongated elliptical orbit, its farthest point away from the Sun.  This moment in any celestial object's orbit is called the aphelion.  At that point, Comet Leonard was around 325 billion miles away from the Sun.

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HR and Equity Director, Edwin Coleman, Appointed to Outdoor Equity Grant Program

If you moved to Colorado and now call it your home, do you remember why? Or, why you stay in Colorado if you were born here? Families often choose Colorado to enjoy the many outdoor activities available, whether it’s skiing or hiking, or simply enjoying beautiful mountain vistas. But, even with the incredible natural amenities that exist, some Colorado youth and their families face barriers to accessing nature-based recreation.

edwin colemanIn response, the State of Colorado passed House Bill 21-1318 establishing the Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program Fund earlier this year. As part of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the program will support outdoor organizations that create opportunities to connect underserved Coloradoans to the natural environment – through both educational and recreational activities. It’s something Keystone Science School has been doing since 1976. Now, though, KSS can seek additional support through this grant program to build accessibility for those facing obstacles.

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Make the Perfect Colorado Gingerbread House

By Julia Strzeszkowski, Bilingual Customer Experience Specialist

kss colorado gingerbread house 1

For almost a decade, my sisters and I have had an annual gingerbread house-making party complete with homemade gingerbread (oftentimes gluten-free), homemade royal icing, and a bunch of Dollar-Store generic candies for decorating.

Since we started this tradition, there is nothing that makes me feel more festive and ready for the holidays than designing our unique gingerbread house pattern, watching it bake to perfect sturdiness, and assembling it to last for literally months.

Being somewhat of a local expert on gingerbread house-making parties, I offer you my tips for the most over-the-top, festive, cozy, joyous, and fun gingerbread house-making party and a pattern and recipe so you too can make your own gingerbread houses!

Make one big house or several small houses? This depends on the kind of guests you have. My sisters and I have done both. Some years Krista doesn’t feel as energetic with the actual construction of the house, and she wants to focus on the decorative details. So we make one big house to share, and while I work on construction, she plans out the intricacies. Last year, we made a Subaru with a car-topped tent as our gingerbread “house”, and Krista tasked herself with making the license plate, headlights, and national park stickers. If you have six or more guests, it’s a good idea to make at least one small gingerbread house per two people.

What should you serve? Definitely make some extra gingerbread and icing so people can snack on it without you losing your mind because they’re eating the roof! Holiday cookies--rugelach, hamantaschen, Butter Melt-aways, Peanut Blossoms, and biscotti are my favorites--and some eggnog and peppermint hot chocolate are always a good idea, too. But with too much sugar, your guests will want something savory. A small charcuterie board, mini quiches, bacon-wrapped dates, and pumpkin hummus with toasted sourdough are perfect finger foods for a gingerbread house party.

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2021 Summer Camp in Review

2021 summer camp in review

With the first dusting of snow this fall sitting atop Loveland Pass, the seasons are finally turning and the staff find themselves reflecting on the summer. The theme for camp this past year was the Summer of Connection, and based on our review and analysis, not only were connections made, but lives changed and unforgettable memories created.

Summer CATCH camp helped parents stay at work, as did $213K in scholarships, which were awarded to 169 families seeking financial aid for various KSS programs. Seven of our summer staff members were former campers, helping maintain the legacy and tradition that helps make Keystone Science School so unique. For our overnight programs, parents listed that their children learned new skills, grew more independent, made new friends, and were able to connect more with nature.

Amidst the ongoing pandemic, we were so grateful to host the more than 1,000 campers that graced our campus this summer. We also want to thank our ever generous donors and community partners for their ongoing support.

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The Starting Sparks of Environmental Stewardship

By Alex Griffith

Copper Environmental Foundation is a longstanding grantor to our local Summer CATCH Camp program. The Foundation is employee-managed and funded and has a natural partnership with KSS as we both seek to educate our youth and community on environmental stewardship through building genuine connections with the outdoors. This blog post by Program Manager, Alex Griffith, shares how our combined efforts help our local and youngest youth build connection with our beautiful outdoors.

A common thread runs throughout Keystone Science School’s summer programming: a wish to teach campers about their impact on the natural world.

That’s not to say this is all we do, by any means—camp is still camp, and there’s time for singing, crafts, and group games that don’t always have clear connections to environmental science. Those connections are there, however, from five-year-old day campers reciting some (and sometimes all!) of the seven Leave No Trace (LNT) principles, to high school campers on backcountry expeditions conducting stream surveys to learn about alpine water quality.

Leave No Trace is, naturally, one of the key parts from which all of our camp programs are built, and from the get-go, campers are taught that aiming to uphold the LNT principles is a noble goal.

Notably, however, it’s a goal that doesn’t require perfection. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect kindergarteners to be on the lookout for durable surfaces to walk on all the time, but if we can teach them that rocks and dirt are better to walk on than wild grasses or moss, that’s a core tenet of an environmental ethic that can be grown and expanded upon as they grow and, if they want to, spend more time outdoors.

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