My boys are SO excited about attending the Spider Monkey day camp at Keystone Science school this summer. I will be reporting back, of course, later this summer. Because, quite honestly, I am just as excited as they are. However, in the meantime, I wanted to just share some more about their camps. I have been increasingly impressed with their organization, camp offerings and dedication to families during our planning time over the last few months. And because of that, I feel comfortable sharing about the camp in general! This post is highlighting a couple of NEW camps AND we are offering a 10% discount on ANY of their camps. This is SO huge, everyone. Not something they do often at all – I sure hope some of you will take up the offer. Full details at the end of the post!
At Keystone Science School, we have always been passionate about including Science, Adventure, FUN! in all our programs. This year, I’m super excited to announce a couple of brand new programs that we’ve been working on to dial up the Adventure to new levels!
We wanted to take advantage of our beautiful state of Colorado and add more activities to cater to our older campers… the “adventure-junkie” crowd who love our residential Discovery Camp for the outdoor overnights and rafting trips! In that spirit, we added a new program for 7-9th graders called Keystone Voyagers. “KV” is based on Discovery Camp, but we pack up and hit the road, with travels to remote CO locations like Rocky Mountain National Park and Steamboat Springs. We’ll be rafting, climbing 14ers, rock climbing, hiking, horseback riding and paddle boarding. Basically, they will be doing all things awesome and action-packed! My favorite session is called “Deserts and Dinosaurs.” We will be travelling from Keystone to Dinosaur National Monument in NW Colorado. This is a remote, “dark-sky” park with rugged mountains, tons of desert wildlife and lots of opportunity to see fossils and geologic features. The group will be base-camping under the stars all week and learning astronomy, with day trips including a tour of the Vernal, UT Field House of Natural History State Park Museum, horseback riding, hiking to remote fossil sites and cooling off with a whitewater rafting trip on the Green River. It’s an action-packed week, with some science sprinkled in to make it special and memorable.
If you are like me, unplugging from modern society and exploring the wilderness during my teenage years changed my life! Backpacking and time in the mountains taught me independence, self-reliance, confidence and the value of teamwork, as well as a lifelong passion for adventure! In that spirit, we have longer wilderness-based programs, called Keystone Mountain Adventures, for our older teens. These “KMA” programs get them farther and deeper in the backcountry than they have experienced before and teach them hands-on wilderness skills like Leave No Trace, navigation and orienteering, and backcountry cooking, in addition to learning the science and ecology of the areas they visit. This year, KMA is featuring our first ALL-GIRLS backpacking trip!!! I’m SO thrilled about this one, because often, backpacking and outdoor sports seem like a “boys club” with guys dominating the gear, media coverage and numbers on the trails. This program will get 7th – 10th grade girls excited to be outdoors, get dirty and challenge themselves comfortably in a supportive all-female environment. Heading out with our top female guides, they will have strong role-models who will be focused on developing their leadership and wilderness skills while they backpack, raft, climb a 14er and do a trail service project.
Whether through Wilderness Keystone Mountain Adventures program or Adventure-focused Keystone Voyagers program, every kid deserves the chance to grow, experience new things and to challenge themselves. Every kid deserves a Keystone Camp experience!
10% off Camp Tuition for all programs (Discovery Camp, Stellar Day Camp, Nova Day Camp, Specialty Day Camps, Keystone Voyagers, Keystone Mountain Adventures, CAP programs)
Go here and at checkout, use Coupon Code: MTNMAMA10
Mark your calendars and save the date: May 20th is going to be special this year!
Why? Kids to Parks Day, an annual nation-wide initiative to get families to our State, National and local public lands, is happening! For seven years now, this great program follows our personal mission here: get kids out discovering and learning about the country that surrounds them.
Our local, state and national parks will be preserved only if we teach our children to know them, to love them. The day is a perfect opportunity (or excuse?) to visit a local, state, or national park or public land as a family and join the movement.
The goal is to make the outdoors accessible and attractive for everyone, not just those with all the “right gear” and “technical equipment”.
It’s far too easy to use a lack of “stuff” in many parts of our lives as an excuse about why we just can’t do it. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that more often than not, our GEAR gets in the way of the experience. While it certainly has its place, being an outdoorsy person doesn’t mean you are keeping up with the outdoor fashion and technical trends (and I am totally guilty of this!)
It’s feeling like spring (maybe?) around here, and the kids beg to go hiking and exploring (which means we must be doing something right, right?!?!) While living in a National Park has some perks (like the incredible views), here’s the “behind the scenes facts” about a day-in-the-life:
We walked directly from our house
The entire hike was maybe maybe a mile
While I would have been happy getting a little blood pumping, they were far more interested in rolling balls down the hill and checking out bones and antlers and rotting bison heads (seriously, I can’t make this stuff up!)
They wore “normal” kid clothes – the ones they seem to wear almost every.single.day. There was no “get in your hiking clothes!” or matching or even convincing them to not wear the fleece pants that are really good at bringing home thousands of burrs (science lesson??)
The only “technical” thing they wore? Hiking shoes to protect them from cactus and ankle rolls and slippery slopes. And they’re Northside hiking shoes, at that, which are completely family-friendly and affordable. I can swallow paying $35 for kid boots that really do protect them.
We totally forgot water, I wanted to bail first and get home, and I was totally leery of ticks the entire time. Real life here, people!
Here’s my point: Stop overthinking things. Just go! The best adventures are often the ones with the least preparation.
How to Get Involved:
Across the country in all 50 states, Kids to Parks Day events will be happening to educate our children and to have fun.You can find those events here (but be sure to check back – they are being added to over the next 6 weeks!) Can’t find anything organized in your area? Don’t let that keep you at home! You can still just get out and explore a new-to-you park or an old favorite.
START BY REGISTERING TO JOIN! Just by doing so, you have the chance to win great prizes from The North Face, Camelbak, National Geographic and more. You’ll also get a special coupon from Northside shoes!
Win from Northside Shoes!
This spring, we hiked in Northside shoes. We were pleasantly surprised on how comfortable, durable and effective in doing the job we needed them to do (keep feet safe, dry and happy!) they did! They’re truly perfect hiking shoes for kids especially – because no one loves paying big bucks for ones they outgrow so quickly!
I love that Northside stands for:
Proudly embracing families
Taking a stance against the overly technical and over-priced
Reminding people that the outdoors is accessible
Today we get to give a pair away to one of you! Winner gets a unique coupon code to choose their own style and size!
As usual, please use the widget below to enter to win. The winner will be emailed and announced on this post in the widget. Have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact me at mountainmamatales(at)gmail(dot)com so I can help!
We are joined today by Ardeen Duckworth, who is a fellow outdoor enthusiast and mom and a fabulous book-reviewer. She also happens to be part of our 365 Mile Challenge group (not too late to join, by the way!) I think you’ll love this review and will join me in wanting to read the book right away!
One day when my daughter was about 8 years old, she said, “Mom, can I tell you something that I have learned about myself?”
“Sure,” I replied, wondering exactly how much self-awareness an eight-year old could possibly have. When I was eight, I knew things like, “If you pull a Barbie’s boot off too hard, you can give yourself a black eye”. Important at the time, but not too pertinent in the decades that followed.
“I have learned that I need to go outside for a very long time every day, or else I am a very grumpy person,” she announced.
I was floored. I think I was about 28 before I realized the same thing about myself. And it’s true. She is always up for a hike / ski day / camping or even just sitting outside and reading a book, and doesn’t seem to mind being hot or cold or wet (to a point, usually far past my own tolerance!). She, like almost every child I’ve ever met, is happier and more balanced when she spends a good part of the day outside.
This is the premise of Peter Brown Hoffmeister’s book “Let Them be Eaten by Bears: A Fearless Guide to Taking our Kids into the Great Outdoors”. Kids need the outdoors. They always have and always will. The book is organized in chapters made up of short, titled sections, some no more than a couple sentences long. And I’ve gotta say, as a parent, that this is the best way ever to organize a book about parenting. You can read a whole complete section between the “Mom! Watch me do this!” and the epic wipeout that follows.
The title, of course, is tongue in cheek. Hoffmeister is a high school outdoor education teacher, and if he’s ever had a student eaten by a bear, he does not disclose that fact. He is also a dad to two young girls, and an experienced adventurer on his own, as well. All of these facets come into play in the book, which sort of wanders between addressing why it’s beneficial to get kids outdoors, methods to start from scratch or increase your outdoor comfort levels, and stories from his outdoor program. I suppose this increases the target audience, as new parents, parents of older kids, and people who are just outdoor advocates in general will all take something from it.
One section that doesn’t quite fit the flow is the chapter on “Paroled and Troubled Teens” – it is a bit out of context. Even if the reader is the parent of a teen, it’s unlikely that they are in a situation like this. The parents of the teens whose home lives Hoffmeister describes would not likely be reading this book. So this whole chapter is a tangent, and sort of comes across as Hoffmeister tooting his own horn regarding the positive effect he and his outdoors class have had on at risk teens. Important work? Absolutely. Pertinent to parents who just want some tips on how to get their young children out in nature? Not really…
Pretty much every other chapter in the book had me pounding the table beside me and shouting, “Yes! Yes, exactly!”. Okay, not in real life, but in my head that’s what was going on. Hoffmeister touches many parts of an outdoor oriented lifestyle , and also on things that might be holding someone back from getting out there and playing. A lot of the things he says are common sense (“start small, just get out there”, “if you don’t know what you’re doing, get someone to show you”), but sometimes we forget these things and need to be reminded. Plus, reading them in a book makes them legit. Reading that fear and excited anticipation can feel very much the same made a lightbulb go off for me, and explains why I think I’m scared of a lot of things but do them anyways.
And then there is the chapter subtitled “Mantras”. And they are some good stuff. In fact, they are my favorite part of the book- wonderfully simple guidance that applies not just to getting kids outside, but to a lot of different parts of life. That’s all I’m going to say about that, you have to read the book to find out what they are!
The three main things I took away from reading this book were:
Live in the moment and don’t freak out if it’s not perfect. Nature sometimes forces you to live in the moment, as anyone who’s ever spent a rainy afternoon in a tent knows very well. Being truly present is such a struggle in our hyper-connected world, but there is such a freedom in seeing “No Service” on your phone screen. The trick for most of us is to pretend that more time is “No Service” time. Hoffmeister’s examples of kids naturally engaging in what is going on in the present and finding their own areas of interest are great reminders to anyone. And he includes a great family motto – “Perfect isn’t fun”. We as adults are the ones who have preconceived ideas about how a trip should go or what we should experience. The kids, who are living in each moment, probably don’t care if you reach the summit or not. They are just happy there are bugs to watch.
“With young people, you will travel slowly” (p.101). I should probably get this tattooed onto the inside of my eyelids, as a constant reminder. “Slower means more observations, more time to think and look around, more time for discovery”. The things we gain by taking our kids into the outdoors are not gained only by the kids. By slowing ourselves down (decrease goals by ¾, Hoffmeister suggests), we see so much more. Slow down, look around, and see the things you might normally miss… there’s probably a lot of them.
Not all kids are lucky enough to have the freedom to explore and play outside. In Chapter 8 “Scrapes and Bruises are Just Childhood” Hoffmeister shares research on schools that have banned tag or removed recess, and how the attitudes of some parents reinforce these decisions. I was very bothered by this chapter, partly because I was reminded of a time when I chaperoned a field trip to a local suburban park for my son’s Grade 3 class. I was astonished at the number of wide eyes, summed up by a boy who said, “This is so cool. I’ve never been in the forest before!” We were on a paved path, surrounded by some trees… and parking lots, mowed grass, and lampposts. It wasn’t a forest in my mind, but to him it was wilderness.
To sum up, I really liked the book. It probably was a bit of preaching to the choir, as I’m a big fan of kids in the outdoors. The muddier you are, the more fun you must have had, I believe. But I think almost anyone could take something positive from it . Not just parents, either. (That Mantras chapter again…!) It’s just good advice from a guy who wants everyone to have good times outside.
And I don’t think it’s a spoiler to quote the last line in the book: “I don’t think I’ll ever do anything better than taking kids outside”. Well said, Mr. Hoffmeister, well said.
Ardeen lives with her husband and two awesome kids near Vancouver, British Columbia. She loves to hike, bike, ski, paddle, backpack… and just love being outside! From when they were very young they’ve brought the kids along on adventures, and are always looking forward to the next one.
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