New Camp KEEP by The Sea campus opens in Arroyo Grande
September 15, 2018
On the brink of its 50th anniversary celebration planned for spring 2019, Camp KEEP (Kern Environmental Education Program) has announced it has moved its longtime Cambria campus to Arroyo Grande, Calif. The new campus - located on the grounds of Camp Arroyo Grande - is named KEEP By The Sea and complements the program's KEEP Ocean campus in nearby Montano de Oro State Park.
The move was necessitated because KEEP Cambria was displaced from its longtime leased campground last year due to delays in an on-going construction project. During the 2017-18 school year, campers scheduled to attend KEEP Cambria were accommodated at two temporary sites. Campers were housed at the Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School last fall and Camp San Luis Obispo in the spring, as officials began exploring permanent options on the central coast.
"We researched and visited a number of sites around the area and Camp Arroyo Grande seemed a perfect fit for KEEP," said Desiree Von Flue, assistant superintendent of student services at the Kern County Superintendents of Schools, which operates KEEP. "It's nestled in the foothills overlooking Pismo Beach and Oceano Dunes and features 29-acres of terrain and various ecosystems close by to explore. It's a truly stunning setting."
Guided by the Next Generation Science Standards, naturalists/teachers bring classroom science to life using hands-on lessons and outdoor activities including hikes each day and field trips to nearby tide pools, sand dunes and forests.
"Ecological concepts taught in the natural environment build upon the indoor science curriculum taught by the classroom teacher," Von Flue said.
While at KEEP By The Sea, students and their counselors stay in rustic cabins and enjoy the camaraderie of family-style meals in the dining hall. While at dinner, students learn and practice a different manner each night.
The new campus features a multi-purposed learning center - called "the nest" - complete with audio/visual equipment, a salt-water touch tank, caged native reptiles, animal specimens, microscopes, sensory activities and games. The site also has a large open play area with recreational equipment, a volleyball court, horseshoe and tetherball area. There is a "drum circle" and stage area along with a campfire pit. Every night before bed, students gather around the fire for stories, songs and skits.
KEEP through the years
Camp KEEP will celebrate its 50th anniversary next spring with various events and activates, which will be announced soon.
The Kern Environmental Education Program (KEEP) was developed in the 1968-69 school year in response to the desire to offer an environmental education opportunity for students of Kern County. The Kern County Superintendent of Schools office (KCSOS), working with representatives from local school districts, developed a five-day environmental education experience. A novel feature of KEEP, is that from the beginning, it was designed with mobility in mind. The program was designed so it could easily be moved from one location to another.
The first camp was held in the spring of 1969 at Tehachapi Mountain Park and Camp Condor near Pine Mountain Club. In spring 1971, KEEP was moved to Hart Flat.
In fall 1971, KEEP Ocean operated at a temporary site at Hazard Canyon within the Montaña de Oro State Park in San Luis Obispo County. KEEP Ocean moved to its permanent home in Montaña de Oro State Park in spring of 1972, where it continues to operate today.
Because of its popularity, a second campus was opened in 1987 in the Sierra foothills near Glennville. The camp was operated on the grounds of Camp Dickson YMCA, which KCSOS purchased in 1990 and officially re-named it KEEP Sierra.
A third campus - KEEP Cambria - was added in 1992. Because California's central coast was a more popular destination for local schools, KEEP Sierra was closed in 2003 and programs were condensed to the two coastal campuses.
During the 2017-18 school year, campers scheduled to attend KEEP Cambria were accommodated at two temporary sites due to on-going construction on the property where KCSOS had long leased land for KEEP Cambria.