Colorado Summer Camp: A Lesson In Decision Making


Keystone Science School wants to make our summer camp program accessible to everyone. In this spirit, we have a financial aid program called our Campership program. We are currently seeking campership applications from those interested in receiving financial aid for the Summer of Imagination. Please share this information with your friends and apply for our campership program.

Keystone Science School is well known for our summer camp program called Discovery Camp. At Discovery Camp, campers sing, make new friends, and have lots of outdoor adventures. A large part of Discovery Camp is teaching campers skills of independence. Campers are always looked after, but they are also challenged and required to make decisions that encourage independence. Sometimes it’s a simple decision of packing their backpack all by themselves for an overnight camping experience. While this might seem like a simple task this can often be challenging to decide between a lightweight flashlight or a heavier flashlight with much more power.  Once the camper is on their overnight backpacking trip, they begin to learn about the impact of their choices. Would it have been better to pack the lightweight flashlight or maybe that extra pair of socks? These camp experiences are what shape campers into future leaders and critical thinkers.

At Keystone Science School, we have expanded our camp progression to include many more Summer Camp and Teen Leadership Programs. We are excited about the new activities and locations we’ve added such as Rocky Mountain National Park, Utah National Parks near Moab, rugged terrain outside Steamboat Springs and much more, but we are more excited about all of the learning opportunities presented by these new programs. We’ll be teaching our teens about important safety techniques in the backcountry and how to take on new adventures. Each camp is designed to help kids grow into future leaders who are independent, critical thinkers, and curious.

Teaching independence isn’t always about teaching skills. Sometimes it’s more about teaching decision-making and gaining the understanding that it’s okay to not have all the answers. Our teachers continuously work to encourage their students to ask questions and not be afraid to be incorrect. At KSS we love science and often take a scientific approach to everything we do. It’s our goal to get our teens and summer campers to use that same scientific approach when they’re participating in any adventure during our camp programs. Specifically, when campers are in the field the teachers constantly are asking them to think about the environment through the lens of science. This approach inspires students and campers to look at the world around them differently and feel a heightened level of curiosity.

What does it mean to use science when it comes to decision making? It’s all about the process and the application of scientific thinking. Within science, you will often hear about the scientific method or scientific process. While you might not conduct a precise experiment you can still apply many of the same principals to decision making every day. The first step of the process is all about defining the question. In this case, it can be a simple question of which flashlight should I bring, or it can be a more complicated question of how to hike from point A to point B in the safest manner. Let’s think about the simpler question of, which flashlight should I bring?

With almost all decisions presented to campers, it’s up to them to determine all of the variables of the decision. Within the flashlight, it’s things such as the weight, power of the flashlight, volume and space a light might consume. As you read this, you might instantly think this is an easy answer, bring the lightest flashlight you can find and it will be easier to carry. While that thought process might hold up to answer the question, what’s the best flashlight I should bring in order to have the lightest backpack, it might not be the best solution for the overall trip.

We ask our summer campers to look forward and look at all the variables of simple decisions. In this case, there’s one variable which might take precedent over other variables, and that’s the itinerary. In Rocky Mountains of Colorado, we often get afternoon thunderstorms. This means that when we bring our groups above tree line in the summer months of Colorado, we start early, so early the sun has not even risen. Anytime you hike in the dark a good flashlight is necessary.

It’s variables such as the itinerary, weather, and terrain which can make a simple decision very complicated. In our teen leadership summer camp programs, it’s this idea of decision making that we love to teach our summer campers. It’s simple things such as this, which can make powerful learning experiences. When our teens leave our summer camp, they must make more and more decisions for themselves. So much can be transferred to real life from their summer camp experience. The same strategy regarding the selection of a flashlight can be applied to any decision or choices a young adult is forced to take.

Not all decisions are easy and not all decisions have simple variables which can be identified. At Keystone Science School we help all our summer campers to identify the variables and not just look at what’s in front of them, but to also look into the future so that they can guess how actions now will affect them in the future.