KSS is working with each 3rd-8th grade student in Park County School District to offer a unique outdoor education program embedded within the traditional school day.
Keystone Science School has been partnering with Park County Schools for over 10 years. In a typical year, the 5th-grade students from Edith Teter Elementary School visited Keystone Science School for an overnight outdoor education program each November. Students would hike as they learned about a variety of environmental science topics.
Their program would always include elements of teambuilding and field-based science. Due to COVID-19, an overnight field trip to Keystone Science School is not possible but their partnership with Park County Schools didn’t stop this year, it only grew. Instead of sending students for an overnight field trip, Keystone Science School is embedded within a typical school day for each 3rd-8th grade student within the Park Country School District.
This is a unique partnership, with the initial goal to reduce class size as the District worked to meet CDPHE’s guidelines for K-12 schools specific to physical distancing requirements. While the program was a creative solution in an effort to reduce the number of restrictions in classrooms, it is helping students get outside and learn about their surroundings. “Opportunities outside of the classroom are rare and partnering with KSS brings an abundance of hands-on experiential learning to our school community,” states South Park Middle and High School principal, Gretchen Panicucci.
“Our students need experiences that get them outside and into nature now more than ever with the current Covid-19 health crisis. Partnering with KSS provides approximately 80 middle school students with outdoor learning experiences throughout the school year. These experiences foster positive relationships among students and adults, expand on learning standards from the classroom setting, and offer a window into a world not yet explored,” she continues.
Keystone Science School has worked hard to adapt to the new CDPHE guidelines and has been forced to cancel almost all of its programs. “It’s been an interesting year, and KSS has worked very hard to adapt to our new reality. Our partnership with the Park County School District is a shining light in this challenging year. We have been so excited to implement our traditional outdoor education curriculum within a traditional school environment. It’s really been a dream come true and I think we’re all hoping the collaboration will continue into a post-COVID world,” states Dave Miller, Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships for KSS.
The idea for the program originated with Laurel Dumas, Edith Teter Elementary principal who has been bringing students to KSS for years as a 5th-grade teacher and now principal. “Our students already spend time outside, ranching, hunting, and fishing, but they’re not always exploring, hiking, and learning, or thinking about their surroundings through an environmental, sustainability, or scientific lens. Additionally, the Keystone Science School program is an invaluable experience for our students because the staff there are so good at incorporating social and leadership skills into their activities, as well as overall wellness, which is increasingly important in this uncertain time we’re currently living in,” states Laurel Dumas.