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CampKEEP Program

KERN ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAM (KEEP)
Program Website: http://www.campkeep.org/

 

 The Kern Environmental Education Program (KEEP), opened in 1968, provides a five-day residential environmental education program for Kern County’s fifth and sixth grade students. Operated by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office, KEEP's two campuses serve over 7,000 students each year. This means ALL children. Besides fifth and sixth graders, KEEP staff host and serve the visually and orthopedically handicapped, deaf and hard-of-hearing as well as children and adults with mental disabilities.

KEEP consists of two separate and beautiful coastal campuses: KEEP Ocean at Montaña de Oro State Park and KEEP By the Sea in Arroyo Grande. Our curriculum stresses the most up-to-date concepts and hands-on activities in the environmental education field, directly correlated with the California State Science Content Standards. A range of 80 to 112 students can be accommodated each week at each of the campuses. The outdoor school sites consist of student cabins, restroom/shower facilities, separate teacher cabin, dining hall and learning center. A professionally trained staff of naturalists, food service workers, and maintenance personnel manage the day-to-day operations. The curriculum is taught by staff naturalists who also lead hikes and conduct evening and campfire programs. Classroom teachers participate as learners and help with student management and health care. The non-profit KEEP Foundation provides scholarships and other financial assistance to support KEEP. Participating students gain an educational and social experience at KEEP that can’t be matched in a classroom setting.
 
Locations and Activities
 
KEEP was created in 1969 to provide environmental experiences for Kern County’s school children. From modest beginnings, KEEP now serves over 7,000 students each year at two campuses located near the ocean. The campuses are KEEP Ocean and KEEP By the Sea.
KEEP By the Sea
 
KEEP By The Sea sits nestled in an oak woodland on a sloping hillside in the village of Arroyo Grande. The dining hall, restrooms and meeting hall called the Nest comprise the center of campus. Cabins stretch across the campus surrounding the main buildings. These house students and adult chaperones in pod groups of eight to twelve. Classroom teachers stay in their own cabin. The campus offers group bathrooms and showers with private stalls.
 
Students, counselors, staff, and teachers eat their meals family-style in the dining hall. Meals are well balanced, varied, and tasty. While at dinner, students learn and practice a different manner each night. At the end of the week, students use all their new manners at the candlelight KEEP Cafe, a restaurant-style meal served by naturalists. 

 
The outdoor school campus also features a nature discovery classroom called the Learning Center, complete with a saltwater touch tank, caged native reptiles, animal specimens, microscopes, sensory activities, and games. The Nest, a large, circular meeting hall, serves as a multi-purpose room for evening programs, rainy day activities, and audio-visual presentations. The site also has a open play area with recreational equipment, a volleyball court, ping-pong tables, horseshoes and tether ball. There is also a “drum circle” plus an open stage and campfire area. Every night before bed, students gather around the fire for stories, songs and good old-fashioned fun. 


 
KEEP By the Sea is a beautiful location for an outdoor science school, providing the highest quality program in environmental education.
 
During their week at KEEP, students will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience as they explore a variety of unique and beautiful coastal ecosystems. The natural curiosity of each student will be sparked as they make observations, practice field journaling, participate in inquiry-based activities, and engage in evidence-based discussions.
 
Open Coast Day–where the sea meets the land (Adaptations at the rocky intertidal and sandy beach ecosystems) During Open Coast Day, students visit the intertidal (tide pools) and beach ecosystems where they traverse over a rocky and sandy coastline and discover how creatures above and below ground survive in the face of the changing tides. Students can touch and compare seaweeds such as bull kelp, rockweed, and giant kelp. In the tide pools, students can hold and study turban snails, hermit crabs, limpets, shore crabs, sea stars, sea anemones and more. On the beach, students participate in a focused study of what structural and behavioral adaptations beach hoppers use to survive.
 
Watershed Day–water’s journey

(Watersheds, erosion, transportation, sedimentation and Beach Keepers at the dunes and sandy beach ecosystems)
During Watershed Day, students will spend most of their time at the Oceano dunes and sandy beach. On campus, students engage with a watershed model exploring what a watershed is and how watersheds contribute to creating beaches. At the dunes and beach students compare and contrast the model with the watershed visible before them. Students also engage in sand exploration, beach discovery activities, and have the unique opportunity to participate in an international citizen science project called Beach Keepers.

Woodland Discovery Day–mysteries of the oak forest
(The process of decomposition, soil study, and symbiotic relationships in the oak woodlands on campus)
During Woodland Discovery Day, students will explore the oak woodlands surrounding the KEEP By The Sea campus with a focus on symbiotic relationships and how decomposition plays a part in the carbon cycle. Students engage in a lichen investigation and learn about the mutually beneficial relationship between algae and fungus. Students also discover various decomposers and their important role in the ecosystem. Finally, students will study in-depth decomposition using microscopes in the Learning Center.

Using these scientific practices, students will discover the biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) factors of each ecosystem, the survival strategies (adaptations) of plants and animals, the nutrient and energy cycles within an ecosystem, and the interdependent relationships that are necessary for all living things to survive. The ecosystems students will explore at KEEP By The Sea are described below. Students are free to take photos of any plants and animals they see, and they will also record memories in their field journals and their minds.

KEEP Ocean
 
KEEP Ocean is located on a secluded 10-acre site within Montaña de Oro State Park, some 10 miles south of Morro Bay in California. The campus is nestled behind a grove of eucalyptus trees about one-half mile from the Pacific Ocean. Hiking trails lead from the site to many diverse habitats in the surrounding state park.
 
During their stay at KEEP Ocean students will have the opportunity to experience one of the more spectacular coastlines of the central California coast. Montana de Oro and Morro Bay State Parks combine to provide a wide variety of natural habitats for science exploration.

As students climb the coastal mountains through the chaparral ecosystem they will study geology and plant adaptations. Many reptiles, birds, and mammals are regularly seen in the chaparral.  Climbing to the top of these mountains and seeing the spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the coastline stretching below them gives the students a sense of accomplishment not felt in traditional educational settings.
 
The shifting sands of the sand dune community provide a dynamic landscape overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Here students can study the unique flora and fauna that is adapted to this ‘semi-desert’ area.  The walk also affords the students a chance to explore some of the beaches, tide pools and rocky shorelines of the state park.
 
The riparian (or streamside) ecosystem provides a cool, moist environment to compare and contrast with the drier habitats of the uplands. Under the shade of the willow trees the babble of the creek serves as a backdrop for lessons about the riparian ecosystem and the history of the Native Americans (Chumash) who depended on this vital source of water.
 
The nearby rocky intertidal zones the students will visit are some of the richest along the California coast.  It is an ecosystem incomparable in its diversity of species ranging from birds, seals and whales to the smallest invertebrates like sea stars, nudibranchs and octopus.  The coastline near KEEP is a living laboratory ripe for exploration of how plants and animals can adapt to this wave washed coast.
 
At Morro Bay, students will spend the entire day learning about the natural history, geology and economic importance of estuaries.  Waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors share this habitat with sea lions, sea otters and fish.  Students will conduct field studies of the estuary by examining plankton, observing underwater habitats and exploring the salt marsh and mudflats.  The wide variety of vertebrates and invertebrates observed in these habitats help give meaning to the concepts of food webs and interdependence.
 
At KEEP Ocean we are guests and visitors to State Parks. Every effort is made to minimize our impact on the habitats we visit while maximizing our enjoyment and learning. But above all, KEEP Ocean is for kids! 
 
For additional information, contact your child's school or the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at (661) 831-8331, ext. 6102.