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KEEN Connects: Summer camp connects kids and nature

Have you ever imagined yourself floating on a flat, glass-like lake, staring up at the cloudless, blue skies, watching an osprey soar off with a fish grasped in its talons? Can you picture yourself sprawled on a floating dock staring down into the water, watching pumpkinseed fish protecting their nests? Did you always want to learn how to tie a bowline knot to quickly erect an emergency shelter during a rainstorm? Do you know what to do during a dangerous wildlife encounter? Have you ever wondered how wildfires help our environment?

There is something magical about a summer camp experience. Children climb aboard the express train to a world filled with possibilities unavailable to them in everyday life. They are thrust into an exciting expedition, discovering how our world works, making new friends, learning new skills, and taking home lessons that will stick with them for their entire lives. Every day at camp can open a new chapter into becoming a unique individual filled with dreams and plans for a brighter future for themselves and our planet.

Pond to Pines Summer Camp is a truly special place in Kittitas County. With an emphasis on place-based learning and the ideals of learning “how” to think rather than “what” to think, KEEN provides a safe, educational, and stimulating opportunity for kids to get their feet wet in the great outdoors we call “our own backyard.” It’s hard to put into words the impact camp has on a child’s lifelong passions. Like the first year of college, camp can be a way to explore a variety of interesting career paths, hobbies, and education pursuits, all while having fun. And anything that engages a child’s mind, sense of adventure and creativity, is worth the world.

This year, KEEN has developed an eclectic mix of adventure and education into our summer schedule. Each of our nine weeks has a creative theme filled with traditional camp activities, outdoor play and exploration, and engaging educational experiences. All of our programs take place at the Helen McCabe State Park, just a few miles south of Ellensburg, has something for every interest. Week 1 is just around the corner, starting on June 18, and will take the best of the best and giving your children a fun-filled, action-packed, school’s-out week of play and adventure. Rowing out onto the lake, exploring the forests, learning new crafts, playing new games are just some of the things planned for our Summer Sampler week.

One of our most anticipated programs is Puzzle Park. Solving mysteries, puzzles, and riddles to unlock the secrets of the park. Learn to use a GPS to locate the park’s geo-caches and even create your own to leave behind for future campers. The ever popular,” Escape Room”, makes an appearance as campers solve challenges to save Wild Helen from a terrible curse.

The environment is key throughout KEEN’s values and camp’s mission. We work with a plethora of amazing professionals whose jobs put them in the thick of saving salmon, fighting fires, revitalizing streams and forests, and even digging in the dirt for long-forgotten artifacts. During Earth, Air, Fire and Water and Dirty Jobs and Junior Ranger, be prepared to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and discover how fun science can be.

Our most popular camp is Survivor Kid and we’re offering it twice this summer. This camp is perfect for the budding adventurer. The wilderness can be a scary place for the ill-prepared. But after a week at Pond to Pines Survivor Kid camp, you will know how to respond in any emergency, maybe even save a life. Learn about our native edible plants, how to make emergency shelter, catch food, and make clean drinking water. Learn what to do and what not to do when encountering local wildlife. Master some first aid skills that could save a life. Learn when and how to use fire to keep warm, cook food, clean water, and even communicate with rescuers. So much to learn and more.

We at KEEN believe that 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.

Head to YCIC.ORG to sign your kid up for one, two, or nine weeks of thrilling adventures and educational opportunities they can’t get anywhere else. All nine weeks are open for kids ages 5-14 and they are filling up fast. We are also offering 3 weeks of pre-school camps. Check out our website for dates, themes and details. Don’t miss out on KEEN’s exceptional outdoor education experience of a lifetime.

Carlyn Moser has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She is a KEEN board member and secretary.

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