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KEEN Connects: The effect of camps on growing up

I remember three distinct moments from my five summers at camp.

I was 11 during my first summer, new to the camp experience and ready for adventure. At the end of the two weeks, I was on the top of a slab of rock I’d been struggling to climb for days, my grin beaming out across the Pocono woods, my new friends celebrating below. I did not know it then, but learning to climb kick-started a passion that still impacts my life today.

When I was 13, I spent two weeks learning to kayak. Driving in the vans to a new paddling location, singing along to the Indigo Girls, I fostered deep respect and admiration for my two counselors. Age and Salty demonstrated a love for teaching, a passion for the outdoors, and a certain appeal for the occasional rule-breaking; traits that any kid could look up to. That week I received my own camp name and a model for what kind of counselor I hoped I’d become one day.

There are things about summer camp that no one will argue. (1) You make friendships: some, lifelong. The majority of my Facebook friends I know from camp. (2) You will learn new skills. Some will be life changing and others will just be for fun. I still happen to be a master of friendship bracelets. (3) You will discover a passion; one that might lead to a hobby, or even a career. And (4) you will find what kind of person you will grow up to be; whether it be carefree and passionate or dedicated and determined, you will leave camp having found a new piece of your identity.

All of these things create an amazing experience for any child, but it’s the lessons learned that really affect who we are and who we will be. Camp taught me the value of place, the effect different locations can have on us. I learned that you can call home to many places and that each one would be important to us in various ways. Camp taught me about stewardship of the land, that we are all responsible for the future of our planet. I learned to live more simply, to reduce my impact, and make sustainable solutions to ensure my footprint wasn’t too big. Camp taught me patience and understanding. Living with a variety of other kids from all different backgrounds, helped me to see my fellow human beings as equals, that we are all in this life together. Teamwork is the backbone of a successful society and if camp can teach us that, then I’d say the experience is a positive one.

Not many kids go to camp when they’re 17. On Day 1, I vividly remember thinking that I’d made a mistake; I was a veteran camper and my cocky attitude almost got in the way of learning my last camp lesson. Luckily, I had an amazing counselor who saw a potential in me I hadn’t really discovered yet: a desire to teach. We learn an extraordinary amount during our time at camp, but what we rarely acknowledge is what we can teach to others. What we can bring to our camp experience is often as important as what we can take away.

I’ve volunteered for KEEN (Kittitas Environmental Education Network) for more than three years and am honored to be running the Pond to Pines Summer Camp this year. KEEN has always embodied the ideals of teaching “how” to think, rather than “what” to think, believing that nurturing active and creative minds is the way to a brighter future.

Pond to Pines is an unforgettable experience for children in Kittitas County and beyond to learn about our local environment, our plants and animals, ways to keep our planet healthy and skills that promote social confidence and intelligent communication. By providing a fun learning environment, KEEN strives to encourage kids to think outside of the box while exploring their natural world.

We are offering nine weeks of exciting themed camps for children ages 5-14. Head to to register your child today for KEEN’s exceptional outdoor education experience.

Carlyn Moser has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She is a KEEN board member and secretary, and has worked with the Sierra Club as an outreach representative for Central Washington and as a kayak instructor and guide in the North Cascades National Park.

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