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KEEN’s Nature School and direct environmental education programming has been growing over the last 8 years.
Each year, KEEN connects directly with about 2,000 K-10th grade children in our programming.
We have tuition-based programs, Pond to Pines Summer Camp, KEEN's Mountaineers, and Earth Explorers,
and free community programs including KEEN's Windy City Park Rangers, 4th Grade Camp,
and Brown Bag Science.
KEEN's Earth Explorers is an After School nature-immersion program. This program is available for early release Wednesdays. Kiddos are bussed directly from schools to our location in the natural area behind Mt. Stuart school. This program is open to all K-5th grade students.
KEEN's Windy City Park Rangers: a free program held in Ellensburg City Parks. It is a day camp-theme based program exploring science, nature education games, and recreational activities (swimming, boating, slacklining, and more). If funded, this program could expand to year-round programming with week-day summer camps and weekend school-year day camps.
KEEN’s Mountaineers: Mountaineers is a year-long adventure “club” for Kittitas County teens grades 6 through 10. Mountaineers meet weekly with their instructors, local guests specializing in that month’s educational theme, and engage in exciting activities to prepare them for each upcoming excursion. Excursions/trips are held monthly (Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) and will be a mix of backpacking, camping, hiking, snowshoeing, trail building, boating, and exploring our natural world.
Pond to Pines Summer Camp: KEEN has offered Pond to Pines summer day camps for the last 7 years. Each camp and activity is carefully constructed to provide the ultimate nature-based learning environment while providing a FUN hands-on experience! KEEN’s Summer Camps are 100% outdoor immersion and take place at the Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center @ Helen McCabe Park.
4th Grade Camp: Each year in the spring, KEEN hosts all of the 4th graders in the Ellensburg School District for our Nature Day Camp. This program aligns with 4th grade science standards and engages young learners in creative thinking, problem solving, and fun in a restored natural area. Hosted at Helen McCabe Memorial State Park, KEEN brings in volunteer subject-area experts to share botany, geology, hydrogeology, and more!
Snow Camp: Snow Camp is an opportunity for K-5 children to explore the best of the Kittitas Valley's festive season. Every day from 9-3 is filled with games, crafts, science, and free play for all, complete with campfires and warm snacks.
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KEEN’s Nature School
KEEN is the go-to expert in nature-based outdoor programming in Kittitas County. For the last 22 years, KEEN has touched the lives of thousands of lifelong learners with outdoor education programming and special events. During the past six years, our Nature School and direct environmental education have been growing with both tuition-based and grant-supported programming.
KEEN connects with over 2,000 K-10th grade students every year with tuition-based programs, Pond to Pines Summer Camp and Earth Explorers, and free community programs including Windy City Park Rangers, 4th Grade Camp, and Brown Bag Science.
KEEN’s Nature School primarily serves K-10th grade children in the Ellensburg, Kittitas, Damman and Thorp school districts. Ellensburg School District is a Title 1 District with 40% of the school population meeting eligibility for free or reduced lunch (as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture); 8% are Transitional Bilingual Participants eligible for TANF, Supplemental Security Income, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or other support programs such as heating assistance. Additionally, 1.1% of students are in Foster Care and 14% in Special Education. Kittitas County Head Start has been fully enrolled for all program years in the last decade.
KEEN continues to work to address the barriers to participation in the tuition-supported Earth Explorers and Pond to Pines summer camp. Many children from underserved populations are responsible for the care of siblings while parents work, so KEEN aims to create programming that entire sibling groups can attend for free. While we seek donations to support our work, our largest expense is salaries. Luckily KEEN’s overhead is virtually nothing which allows us to keep our costs low, but relying upon grant funding to sustain free programs is not realistic.
It is important to note that access to high-quality afterschool and summer programs is not always equitable. There can be significant disparities based on income and education, transportation, cultural and developmental appropriateness of programming, and neighborhood safety, among other factors. While nationwide 9 in 10 adults reported that afterschool and summer programs are important to their community, more than 19 million children are unable to enroll in an afterschool or summer program.
Given local statistics from our partners at FISH and APOYO, KEEN estimates that 50-65% of our school-aged children cannot afford to attend high quality afterschool or summer programs.