KEEP COVID-19 Guidelines
“One thing that surprised me was that Virtual Camp KEEP did not lose the KEEP allure and intrigue. Camp KEEP always has a way of pulling every camper in, and enticing even the most uninspired and unmotivated classroom student. I saw students who are not the “school type” show up to every zoom early and answer questions in the chat like they were going out of style! The allure of KEEP is still going strong, even with it being virtual. That is a wonderful thing! By the end of the week, our class was bonded so much stronger than before. Typically this happens every year at KEEP, but I didn’t expect it this year with it being virtual. My students did not want to leave our last zoom! Many of them were saying no, please don’t end it. They got a special bond even through the computer and that was beautiful.“
— Norris Teacher Victoria Johnson
“I enjoyed the hikes and the funny jokes. Everyone at Camp KEEP was very fun. I mean I laughed so hard and during the campfire songs I danced and I liked making the smores that I had.”
— “Ivy Blossom”, General Shafter Student
“This was one of the best weeks in my life. I had the best time and I loved exploring with you. You guys have made this really special and I thank you for that.”
— –“Raven”, General Shafter Student
“I would like to thank you for the amazing virtual Camp KEEP experience you hosted for our 6th grade class…I thought the lessons were very neat, fun, and interesting. I especially liked being a detective and finding out the mystery skull…Another project that I enjoyed was making my wood cookie. During my Camp KEEP week I learned so much about nature and how to have fun in the amazing outdoors.”
— –“Foxy”, Ronald Reagan Student
Camp KEEP Forms
We hope your child is looking forward to an amazing week at the Kern Environmental Education Program. Our staff is ready to deliver a once in a lifetime environmental experience.
These forms must be completely filled out, signed and returned to your child’s school:
- KEEP Application 2021-22
- Policies & Procedures
- School Checklist for Departure
- School Health Screening Questions (Before Leaving)
Forms for adults attending KEEP
- High School Reg Form | Adult Reg Form(Couns/Tchr)
- Pre-Travel Health Screening
- Counselor Orientation Letter
Forms for children attending KEEP
Information for schools to send home to parents
- COVID-19 Information for Families
- KEEP Preparation Checklist for Families
- Parent Welcome Letter
- Packing List
Forms to email to KEEP 2 weeks before visit
All forms must be submitted in an excel or Google sheet.
The Physician’s Authorization to Attend Form is required for students with specialized health care needs to attend KEEP. Contact Assistant Superintendent Desiree VonFlue (661-636-4629) and your classroom teacher for the following:
- Any medications requiring injections (i.e. Epipen or Glucagon)
- Severe bee sting or insect bite reaction
- Severe food or nut allergy reaction
- Mobility limitations
- Severe asthma (i.e. requiring nebulizer or activity restrictions)
- Seizure Disorder
- Respiratory Restrictions (i.e. respiratory conditions limiting activity)
- Recent hospitalization
- Other serious health conditions.
If your child has a serious medical condition, permission to participate will be determined on an individual basis. The KEEP campuses are an hour away from an health care facility, and KEEP does not have a school nurse. Your child’s safety is a vital concern. Many of these health care conditions will require a medical shadow to attend with your child (free of charge). The sooner KEEP and your school is notified of your child’s condition, the better!
Quick Tips for Packing
Proper footwear is a must
Dress in layers
Bring a warm hat, gloves and jacket
Students should label all clothing and equipment
Bring a good attitude about getting dirty
Camera, binoculars, sunscreen, sun glasses, 1 cap/visor for sun protection, backpack, flip-flops or sandals for shower, earplugs if you are a light sleeper, and a watch.
Many of you wish to know what to expect when you bring your class to KEEP.
Please arrive at 11:30 a.m., allowing three hours to get to KEEP from Bakersfield (the KEEP staff will not be ready for you until 11:30 a.m.). Upon arrival, you and your students will be given a brief welcome and behavior expectations before lunch is served at noon.
After lunch students will learn their cabin assignments and move their luggage to their rooms. Following this, students will accompany Naturalists on orientation walks around the campus. Counselors will have their own orientation meeting with the Lead Naturalist. The teachers will meet with the Program Supervisor to talk about the week (hiking assignments, teacher duties, students, etc.).
Around 4:30 p.m. the students and counselors will finish moving in and have some free time until dinner at 5:30 p.m.
Teachers will meet with their students for one hour per day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. This is a good time to touch base with your students and, if you choose, have the children work on their field notebooks. Counselors have a meeting during this “teacher hour” and then enjoy their limited free time — so please keep your students for the full hour.
Be prepared for the unexpected at KEEP. Anything that happens is curriculum. We look forward to a wonderful week with you and your class. Your comments, suggestions and constructive criticisms are earnestly solicited. The KEEP office phone number in Bakersfield is (661) 636-4629.
Being a counselor is a challenging, fun, and extremely rewarding experience. Be prepared to learn a bunch about science, nature, kids and…yourself.
Counselors are not babysitters, but rather, temporary staff members who are responsible for the safety, well being, and educational support of approximately 7-12 elementary students for five days, 24 hours per day.
As a counselor, you will assist naturalists on ecology walks/hikes and evening campfire programs, directly supervise between 7 to 12 students during meal time, showers, etc., and be on call for emergencies while bunking with students.
All counselors (whether high school, college or adult/parent) must complete a registration form and submit to the school site before coming to Camp KEEP.
All high school counselors must have a registration form completely filled out and in the possession of the teacher before boarding the bus to come to camp. Counselors under the age of 18 must have the form signed by their parent.
So You’re coming to KEEP as a Counselor? Here are some tips:
- Make sure you bring good sturdy shoes with good tread on the bottom. Bring a couple of pairs at least because there is a good chance they may get wet. Ugg boots, “shape-ups”, and or rubber boots are NOT good for hiking on trails. And you will be hiking, every day, rain or shine. Some days you can expect to cover over 5 miles up steep hills or on sandy dusty trails sometimes gaining up to 1,000 feet in elevation. Some hikes go along uneven rocky shores laced with slippery rocks. Be prepared!
- Bring warm clothes, the wind and weather on the coast can make it quite cold over here at times, however a big heavy jacket is not recommended for hiking, several light warm layers work much better. Don’t forget, a backpack to carry your layers, camera and your refillable water bottle.
- Don’t count on using your cell phones, in fact we discourage it. Service is sketchy, time is limited, and here at KEEP the kids come first. The KEEP staff would rather you focus on being here in this wonderful place with the students rather than texting or talking to people miles away.
- Do you drink coffee or tea? Bringing your own insulated mug to enjoy your hot beverage is a good idea.
More in-depth information can be found in the KEEP Counselor Handbook.
So your child is coming to KEEP? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:
- Is KEEP Safe?
Yes! KEEP has operated since the early 1970s and hundreds of thousands of children have attended.
All KEEP staff hold current certifications in first aid & CPR and deal with routine student health issues on a daily basis. If there is a more serious problem, your child’s teacher will contact you immediately via the emergency numbers listed on your registration form.
Naturalist staff are trained to keep students safe on hikes. Children are not allowed to swim or wade in the ocean or creek. KEEP monitors local weather on a daily basis and adjusts hike schedules accordingly. Kitchen staff are trained to keep students safe at meals. Our menu is peanut & tree nut free. Students with special dietary needs are accommodated. Volunteer chaperones are provided by the visiting school. KEEP trains these chaperones on the first day to keep students safe in the trailers, both physically and emotionally. Every afternoon students spend time with their school teacher, who touches base to make sure they are healthy and happy.
Every staff member & school volunteer passes DOJ & FBI fingerprint clearance as required by school districts.
- What if my child takes medications?
In order for children to take medication (prescription or over the counter) at KEEP they must have the Student Medication Form filled out and signed by a doctor and a parent. KEEP staff can’t administer even a cough drop without this form filled out. Medications need to be turned into their child’s teacher in their original container. Make sure all medications have a current expiration date. Medications will be kept in the first aid room and dispensed according to instructions. Emergency medications (such as inhalers) will be carried on every hike.
- What happens if my child gets sick at KEEP?
The answer varies, depending upon what is wrong with the student.
If there is the possibility of a contagious illness (fever, vomiting, etc), the sick child is taken to the first aid cabin and put into the care of their teacher. Their teacher will contact the child’s family and arrange for a pickup at KEEP. Contagious children cannot stay at KEEP; although if they are symptom free for 24 hours (and cleared by a doctor) they may return. Schools will receive a partial refund if a child is sent home on the 1st or 2nd day.
If the child has a minor issue, such as a stuffy nose or mild cough, non-medicated comfort measures are offered (such as warm tea with honey). Over the counter medications can’t be given unless the parents have filled out the KEEP Medication Form.
- What if my child wets the bed?
KEEP has a very discreet way to deal with this situation to ensure that every child feels safely and privately cared for.
Parents should let staff know by marking the appropriate box on their child’s registration form. This child will be given a bottom bunk (where it will be easier to get to the bathroom & clean up/launder any nighttime situations). If a child wakes up wet in the middle of the night, we have extra dry sleeping bags the counselor loan out. In the morning, we wait until the children are eating breakfast to get wet bags to launder so no one notices. By the time the students return from their hikes, all bags are clean & dry and returned to the bunks.
Some parents choose to send pull-ups with their child for bedtime use. If that is the case, please let your child’s teacher knows. These items will be stored in the 1st aid room. At bedtime and in the morning, your child will be allowed to go there and change privately in the 1st aid bathroom.
- What happens if my child is scared to shower in front of other kids?
Showers are private. Each child will have their own shower, with a small changing area and privacy curtain. Chaperones will always be present by the entry of the shower room to ensure that the children are behaving respectfully & appropriately. Hazing & pranks are not allowed.
Students must shower at least once during the week, and have the opportunity to shower on both of their long hiking days. If students desire, they may bring a swimsuit to wear in the showers.
- Where does my child sleep?
Children sleep in cabins or trailers in small groups assigned by their teacher. Each group will be supervised by an adult volunteer from the visiting school at a 7:1 ratio. Teachers sleep in a separate building within sight of the student quarters. Teachers are on-call at night to deal with any behavior or first aid issues. There is always a staff member on campus at night who is available to assist teachers if needed.
- What will my child eat?
Please see our sample menu under each campus page. Students are served nutritious breakfasts, lunches, & dinners while at KEEP. There are morning and afternoon snacks available for children who are hungry. Additionally, if your child is vegetarian, or has an identified food allergy, please read the section entitled “Students with Special Needs”
- What about ticks?
Facts about Lyme Disease in California
Ticks are a fact of nature. Frequenting the brush along trails; ticks are blind, deaf, and cannot fly or jump. They simply wait for an animal to brush up next to them and hitch a ride. When they find a nice, warm, uninterrupted space on the body, they bite. Most tick bites cause temporary discomfort and itch but do not transmit disease. The deer tick, however, can be the carrier of Lyme disease.
The KEEP staff regularly receives tick training on tick anatomy and behavior, proper tick removal techniques, and signs and symptoms of infection. The Bay Area Lyme Disease Foundation (www.bayarealyme.org) is a great resource for further tick and Lyme disease information.
How to Prepare Your Student
The best measure for prevention is to ensure your child comes with long pants, long socks and an undershirt to tuck underneath layers for each day at camp. Light colored clothes also allow for easier tick spotting. Consider treating your family’s existing clothing with Permethrin in advance of camp to offer long-lasting, extra protection against all insects – including ticks. Lemon Eucalyptus Oil is believed to repel ticks and several all-natural organic sprays now exist on the market.
Our Preventions & Protocols
During hikes, students are shown what ticks look like, taught how they behave and where they are commonly located. Students are taught to walk in the middle of the trail and avoid brushing against plants. Pants are tucked into socks and shirts into pants since ticks like to crawl up. Naturalists stop during hikes for tick checks. If ticks are found on clothing, naturalists demonstrate how to remove the tick in a safe way.
If a student has been bitten by a tick, KEEP follows these protocols:
- Using tweezers, the tick is grasped as close to the skin as possible and pulled straight out. The area is then washed with an antibacterial wipe.
- The tick is sealed in a labeled plastic bag and an informational pamphlet is attached. Parents can choose to send the tick to a laboratory to check for Lyme Disease.
- The tick bite is logged into our medical records and the teacher is informed.
- If the tick comes out cleanly, the teacher calls the parent and provides option A or B (see below). If tick breaks in the skin, the teacher calls parents and provides options A, B, or C (see below).
- Parents wait until Friday to treat
- Parents come to KEEP and bring student to local urgent care clinic
- Teachers bring student to emergency room for tick removal
- What if my child gets homesick?
Homesickness is common, especially on the first night as students start to think about bedtime. Our goal is to encourage homesick students to stay for the whole week of adventures. Ultimately, whether or not to send a homesick child home is a decision teachers will make with their child’s parents. KEEP strongly encourages teachers to make that decision after the student has made it through the first night and gone on at least one hike. There are no refunds given for homesickness. Parents can help their children prepare for a week away from home by practicing spending the night at a trusted adult’s house prior to their visit. Also, share with your child the following tools to help with homesickness.
Here are some tools we use to help children that feel homesick
- Keep students involved in the activities. Busy kids feel less sad! Kids that feel homesick need to be part of program, watching other kids have a great time.
- Listen to the student and let them vent their feelings of loneliness. Reassure them that feeling homesick is perfectly normal.
- Remind them that other students around them have the same feelings and they are not alone. Everyone in their class has each other to lean on.
- Tell them that feeling homesick is not bad; rather, it is a good thing because it means they have a great family who loves them. Their family also wants to see them grow, have new experiences, and will be very proud of them by the end of the week.
- Distract them by asking about their favorite part of the day. What did they get to see while hiking? What fun activities are there for them to do on campus?
- Remind them there is more great stuff ahead! Exploring tide pools, playing on a beach, hiking a mountain, face painting at the creek, visiting Morro Bay are all activities waiting for them. They can hold snakes or sea stars, play in the yard, and explore the Discovery Zone. Every evening we sing new campfire songs.
- KEEP has a homesickness journal. It contains real stories from students who were homesick at KEEP, but managed to stay until the end of the week. Students can pick out a few to read together with their teacher. On Friday, students who conquer homesickness can write in the journal too.
- Sometimes homesickness is related to a student not being comfortable in their cabin group or hiking group. Teachers may consider switching groups if that student is worried about a certain hike or has a special friend in another group.
- On occasion the teacher may call home to discuss the problem and possible solutions with the child’s parent. Letting a sad child talk to his/her parents is not always a wise idea as it can result in more tears, and an exaggeration of the problem rather than a solution.
- Asbestos Information
Children with special medical, behavioral, or emotional needs can attend KEEP and have an amazing experience with their class. We look forward to working with your child to help them make a memory that will last their lifetime!
KEEP has hosted students that are deaf and hard of hearing, visually impaired, and with mobility limitations (including wheelchairs). Many special education students thrive at KEEP. The KEEP experience is available for students with severe medical needs such as diabetes, seizure disorder, catheterization, anaphylactic reactions, hemophilia, cerebral palsy, sickle cell, cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, medication injection of any type, suppository of any type or other medical procedures.
If your child has a special need, there are several things that need to occur to ensure that they have a safe and successful week. The following measures must be met to minimize risk and to assure the student’s safety at a five day, overnight, outdoor program:
- The Physician’s Authorization to Attend KEEP Form (available from your school) is filled out & signed by a parent and physician. The student’s parents and physicians are informed of the KEEP activities, the outdoor location, the changes in daily living, and the distance from emergency medical services.
- An authorized medical shadow (the student’s parent/guardian, parent designee, or school district designee), accompanies the student to KEEP, is in attendance during all program activities, and is trained to provide specialized health care as needed or prescribed by the child’s physician. Additionally, the shadow will arrange for any needed activity modifications. The shadow attends KEEP free of charge. Although the KEEP staff are trained in first aid and CPR, they are not trained medical personnel, and are not authorized to carry out advanced procedures. There is no nurse or physician on the KEEP campus available to monitor reoccurring health concerns. The KEEP campuses are 30-45 minutes from an emergency room, and some remote trails could require more than 1 hour to receive emergency care.
- KEEP reviews all forms at least six weeks in advance of the student’s attendance at KEEP. This allows time to review paperwork, contact parents with questions, and put in place any needed modifications for the visit.
- The student’s IEP or 504 Plan study team review and revise the student’s IEP or 504 Plan in consideration of the KEEP activities, the outdoor location, the changes in daily living, and distance from emergency medical services. the team communicates needed modifications with the KEEP staff.
KEEP can accommodate children and adults with special dietary needs. Our menu is tree nut, peanut, and shellfish free. (However, we cannot guarantee our campus is nut free as children & chaperones sometimes bring snacks containing nuts). With advanced notice, KEEP will provide vegetarian meals, as well as substitutions for allergy-inducing items. Your child’s teacher must contact KEEP with all dietary needs at least a week prior to your school’s visit. In certain circumstances KEEP’s lead cook may contact parents with more detailed questions about allergies. On rare occasions, a child has so many severe dietary restrictions that parents will be asked to provide pre-made meals for their child. Children with life-threatening allergic reactions will require a medical shadow to carry their medication and monitor their food intake. All people with special diets will need to identify themselves to the food servers at every meal.
*Requirements of the Shadow
- *Be a parent/guardian, parent designee (over the age of 18), or school district designee.
- Pass fingerprint clearance required by your district to be alone with students.
- Be thoroughly familiar with the student’s specific medical condition and administration of any needed medications.
- Be trained in the provision of any specialized medical care or emergency care as noted in the “Physicians Authorization to Attend” form.
- Be physically able and willing to accompany the student on all hikes and activities, including strenuous hikes with elevation gains of over 1000 feet.
- Supervise student back on campus when the student’s health prevents him/her from participating on hikes.
- Be on campus 24 hours a day in the event a student has a medical need. This requires sleeping in rooms with other students and chaperones.
- Monitor and adjust food intake as needed. Bring food to supplement KEEP’s menu if a special diet is needed.
- Follow all campus rules of behavior while in the presence of students: For example: no smoking, no cell phone calls, no soft drinks/candy/gum, etc.
- Work with the KEEP staff and classroom teachers, to insure a safe and educational experience for the student.
While at KEEP Ocean, students and their counselors stay in 10 trailers. Each trailer has 7 bunk beds, for a total of 14 sleeping spots. There is one handicap-accessible trailer on both the boys’ and girls’ side of campus. The nearby modern bathroom & shower facilities are handicapped-accessible. Each shower stall has privacy curtains and a separate changing area.
Classroom teachers stay in their own trailers located within site of the student cabins. A first aid room is located near the office and provides a private area to care for students who are unwell.
Students, counselors, staff, and teachers eat their meals together in the geodesic Dome. Meals are well balanced, varied, and tasty! Every day students are provided with an optional morning & afternoon snack. Adults enjoy a diverse coffee & tea bar. Students are taught about and practice recycling and food scrap composting during their stay at KEEP.
Besides meals, the Dome is a gathering area for evening activities. Additionally, the Dome contains a salt water touch tank and native reptile display. Students are encouraged to hold these animals during their free time. Draped along the ceiling, each participating school’s t-shirt hangs proudly.
Our outdoor school campus also features the Discovery Zone: a nature center complete with 2 terrariums, animal specimens, microscopes, sensory activities, audio-visual equipment, and games. The site also has a large open play area with recreational equipment, including a sand volleyball court, basketball court, Ping-Pong tables, soccer area, tetherball, & Frisbee golf.
Our campus includes a greenhouse, native plant garden, and outdoor nature viewing area, complete with spotting scopes, bird feeders, & microscopes. It is common to see many animals wander through campus, including deer, wild turkeys, brush rabbits, monarch butterflies, and California quail.
Our beautiful new amphitheater is located in the middle of campus. Every night before bed, students gather around the fire for stories, songs and skits. This type of good old-fashioned fun is often their favorite part of KEEP!
KEEP Ocean is a beautiful and invigorating location for an outdoor science school, providing the highest quality program in environmental education.
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, tidepools and rocky shorelines of the state park.
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.
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.
7:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. — Wake-up, breakfast, awards, and getting ready for the day. Students fill out their daily activity journal.
8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. — Nature walk to beaches, tidepools, forests, creeks, sand dunes, or Morro Bay.
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Picnic Lunch.
12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. — Nature walk to beaches, tidepools, forests, creeks, sand dunes, or Morro Bay.
3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. — During this time, teachers provide activities for students such as art projects, writing letters home, or filling out their KEEP journals.
4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. — Recreation and shower time. Activities include nature center, soccer, volleyball, basketball, ping-pong, tether ball, snake holding & touch tank exploration.
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. — Dinnertime! Students eat a nutritious dinner with a delicious dessert. After dinner students get ready for evening activities.
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. — Evening program. Students work together playing various science games. Games are followed by a campfire, songs, and stories.
Menu subject to change due to seasonal availability and/or other factors
Lunch: Chicken Nuggets w/BBQ Sauce, Beans, Corn, Pineapple Cup, Milk
Dinner: Spaghetti w/ meat sauce, Green Beans, French Roll, Brownies, Apple Juice
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Corn Tortilla, Mandarin Orange, Grape Juice and Milk
Lunch: Turkey Hot Dogs, Sun Chips, Apple, Baby Carrots, Milk
Afternoon Snack: Animal Crackers, String Cheese, Grape Juice
Dinner: Chicken Tenders, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Salad, Apple Juice, Strawberry Ice Cream
Breakfast: Pancakes, Strawberry Compote, Tropical Fruit Cup*, Orange Juice and Milk
*The KEEP kitchen will substitute Fruit cups with fresh fruit when available.
Lunch: Ham Sandwich, Potato Chips, Banana, Carrots, Milk
Afternoon Snack: Cheese and Crackers, Fruit Roll-up, Water
Dinner: Pepperoni Pizza, Green Salad, Ranch Dressing, Cake, Apple Juice
Breakfast: Colby Omelet, Cereal Bowl, Applesauce, Orange Juice and Milk
Lunch: Turkey Sandwich, Frito’s Corn Chips, Apples, Green Salad w/ Italian, Milk
Afternoon Snack: Lorna Doone, String Cheese, Grape Juice
Dinner: Beef Tacos with Cheese and Lettuce, Refried Beans, Spanish Rice, Chips & Salsa, Apple Juice
Breakfast: Pancake Wrap, Boiled Egg, Peach Cup*, Juice/Milk
*The KEEP kitchen will substitute Fruit cups with fresh fruit when available.
Lunch: Bean and Cheese Burrito, Orange, Celery w/ranch, Brownie and Milk
KEEP Ocean Staff Photo
Top Row (L -> R): Eilif, Rich, Dean, Elizabeth, Renie, Steve, Katherine, Lacey
Bottom Row (L -> R): Kat, Nicole, Audrey, Paul, Matt, Cathy
Elizabeth “Salamander” Roberts (Program Supervisor) earned a BS in Biology from UC Berkeley as well as a K-8 teaching credential from Cal State Fresno. She started at KEEP in 1996 and became Supervisor in 2006. Elizabeth is our “Master of Details,” ensuring everything is operating smoothly and efficiently. Her favorite part about KEEP is creating a magical experience for visitors, being a part of an amazing team of coworkers, and getting to hike at the front of the line.
Dean Thompson (Lead Naturalist) received a BS in Wildlife Biology and Natural Resource Management from Cal Poly as well as a K-8 teaching credential. He started at KEEP in 1986. Dean is a Howard Bell award winner and master storyteller. His favorite part about KEEP is walking in the green spring time hills with a cool ocean breeze blowing off the ocean and feeding off the enthusiasm of students interacting with the wonders of nature.
Paul “Buzzy” Grafton (Lead Naturalist) earned a BS in Biology at Humboldt State University. He started at KEEP in 2008. Buzzy is our vermiculture expert. His favorite part of KEEP is watching the glowing expressions on students’ faces when watching a whale breech, holding a snake, or making it to the top of a mountain for the first time.
Cathy Chambers (Naturalist) received a BA in Anthropology UC San Diego and did post graduate work in Science Education and Biology at San Diego State. She started at KEEP in 1998. Cathy is our native plants expert and chicken keeper. Her favorite part about KEEP is seeing the children’s sense of joy and wonder when they are exploring the natural world.
Eilif Paulson (Naturalist) earned a BA in Child Development as well as an elementary teaching credential from Humboldt State University. He started at KEEP in 2000. Eilif is our handy guy specializing in campus restoration projects. His favorite part of KEEP is that no matter what silly names we choose, places we come from, or baggage we carry, all is right with the world when running down a sand dune.
Nicole “Kestrel” Dale (Naturalist) received a BS in Zoology and Communications at University of Wisconsin. She started at KEEP in 2008. Nicole is AEOE’s outdoor educator of the year (2007), medical form wizard, and Facebook guru. Her favorite part of KEEP is hiking up big hills with students.
Lacey Poulis (Naturalist) received a BS in Liberal Studies and a multiple subject teaching credential from Cal Poly as well as a MA in Education from Sonoma State University. She started at KEEP in 2007. Lacey is our design and organization expert. Her favorite part of KEEP is witnessing students finding a personalized interest in nature, marveling at cool nature sightings, and filing papers.
Kat Amsinger (Naturalist) earned a BS in Biology at Oregon State University. She started at KEEP in 2011. Kat is our residential herpetologist and animal handling expert. Her favorite part of KEEP is seeing students live up to our high expectations and the excitement a students gets when they try something they never thought they would and love it.
Alex Guill (Naturalist) earned a BS in Environmental Science and Management at UC Davis. He started at KEEP in 2016 and knows he has the best jokes you’ve ever heard. His favorite part of KEEP is experiencing the students’ energy and excitement when encountering nature’s wonders.
Rich Bohey (Caretaker) started at KEEP in 1992. Rich is our very talented and hard working maintenance man and landscape artist. His favorite part of KEEP is getting to work on something new everyday, watching students enjoy their experience, and working in the greenhouse.
Matt Booker, Liz Bednorz and Irene “Renie” Pierce
Matt Booker (Cook), Lizzy Bednorz (Lead Cook), and Renie Pierce (Cook). Together, our cooks have over 90 years of culinary experience! Lizzy started at KEEP in 2017, and her favorite part is watching the deer walk through camp. Renie started at KEEP in 2001, and her favorite part is when the kids arrive on Monday excited and on Friday (after a full week of KEEP) they are tired but with smiling faces. Matt started in 2015, and his favorite part of KEEP is when the kids come through the lunch line and show their appreciation.
Audrey “Bumblebee” Cunningham (Bus Driver) started at KEEP in 2009. Audrey is our fantastic bus driver, hot dog BBQ master and professional plankton catcher. Her favorite part about KEEP is working outside with kids.
Directions to KEEP Ocean (from the Bakersfield area)
GPS will only guide you to the entrance of Montana de Oro State Park. Please use these directions for the last 2 miles to our campus.
- North on I-5 to Hwy 46
- West on Hwy 46 to Hwy 101
- South on Hwy 101 to the Los Osos exit (located in southern San Luis Obispo)
- Turn west (right) onto Los Osos Valley Rd and go 10 miles to the town of Los Osos
- From the first traffic light in Los Osos (at South Bay Blvd) continue for 2.5 miles on Los Osos Valley Rd., following the directional signs reading “Montana de Oro State Park”. Eventually the road veers southward and turns into “Pecho Valley Rd.”
- When you reach the large (3’X6’) entrance sign to Montana de Oro State Park continue 1.6 miles past the “Hazard Horse Camp” & “Sand Spit” parking areas. Our unmarked dirt driveway will be directly across the street from the “Hazard Canyon Parking” sign. Turn left. The address number is 3350 Pecho Valley Road, and there is a small brown KEEP sign on the fencepost.
- Drive up the dirt road and stay to the left. KEEP Ocean is only 100 yards through the trees from the pavement.
“Whether the weather is cold,
Or whether the weather is hot;
Whether the weather is fair,
Or whether the weather is not;
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!”
We enjoy all types of weather at KEEP!
Current Donor’s Choose projects
KEEP Ocean Wish List
- Sponsorship Display Pavers. Download a sponsorship form.
- Heavy Duty Riding Lawnmower
- Industrial Kitchen Dishwasher
- Heavy Duty Vacuums
- Discovery Zone Displays: Contact KEEP for more details
- Pick-up Truck
- Industrial Garbage Disposal for Kitchen
- Small Tractor/Loader
To donate please contact
Desiree Von Flue
Thanks for Supporting KEEP!
(Fri Pickup Only)
PO Box 6091
Los Osos, CA 93412
(Fed Ex Only)
3350 Pecho Valley Rd
Los Osos, CA 93402
“I love Camp KEEP because it makes me feel alive”
“We had a fabulous time last week! You and your team are powerful! Our students come back very rich in knowledge in regards to environment conservation, love for ecosystems, and nature as a whole! Job well done! Thank you for adding to our favorite memories of KEEP!” – Kathleen Hansen, Superintendent Caliente Union Schools
“The program is excellent! Keep it going. This is my fifth time at KEEP and I have nothing but good things to say about it.” – Teacher, College Heights
“Thank you for everything you do. Our kids will remember this experience for a lifetime. Thanks for making science come alive.” — Cabin Leader, Standard Elementary
“I really enjoyed this week and learned so much. I was not offered this opportunity when I was young and I am glad I was able to experience it with my son. Thank you all so much.” — Parent Cabin Leader, Berkshire Elementary
“I love Camp KEEP because you get to do fun stuff you can’t do alone.” — Stine School 6th Grade Student
“I love Camp KEEP because you can go out in nature and interact with it….and because of all of the hands on experiments.” — Elk Hills 6th Grade Student
“I love Camp KEEP because it not only teaches science education in a way that is hands-on and fun, but it also allows the children to build friendships and develop life skills.” — Parent Chaperone, Elk Hills School
KEEP By The Sea
The amazing new home of KEEP By the Sea is situated near Morro Bay, nestled in the foothills of the Cuesta Ridge. The expansive campus (much larger and with double the capacity of the Arroyo Grande camp), boasts many built-in benefits and recent improvements, including:
- Modern air-conditioned teacher accommodations, with attached bathroom, living area, bedrooms, and kitchenette;
- A student infirmary adjacent to the teachers’ quarters;
- 21 rustic cabins and a brand-new village of yurts that can house more than 200 students;
- Recent kitchen and dining hall improvements and renovations to support more people during meals;
- A brand new restroom and shower facilities;
- A large amphitheater for campfires and group gatherings;
- A number of trails to provide for adventure and learning on campus, including a new riparian interpretive trail;
- An onsite pond with multiple observation stations to learn about freshwater wildlife;
- A resident tortoise, raptors, reptiles, and rabbits;
- Recreational opportunities including drum circles, ping pong, basketball, volleyball, and soccer;
- A freshwater creek that runs through campus and serves as a beautiful learning resource;
- Easy access to Morro Bay field trips, as well as local and diverse tide pools.
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. 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.
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.
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. – Wake-up, breakfast, awards, and getting ready for the day. Students fill out their daily activity journal.
8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. – Nature walk to Tidepools/Beach, Watershed/Dunes, or Oak Woodland Discovery.
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Picnic Lunch.
12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. – Nature walk: Tidepools/Beach, Watershed/Dunes, or Oak Woodland Discovery.
3:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. – During this time, teachers provide activities for students such as art projects, writing letters home, or filling out their KEEP journals. Additionally, naturalists recognize students with daily hike awards.
4:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Recreation and shower time. Activities include nature center, soccer, volleyball, basketball, ping-pong, tether ball, snake holding & touch tank exploration.
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Dinnertime! Students eat a nutritious dinner with a delicious dessert. After dinner students get ready for evening activities.
7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Evening program and bedtime. Students work together playing various science games. Games are followed by a campfire, songs, and stories. After campfire, students prepare for the next day and for a good night’s sleep.
Camp KEEP By The Sea Staff Photo
Sol is our fearless leader and program supervisor. She has earned a BA in Environmental Science and Spanish from the University of Denver and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, an ME in Curriculum & Design and Education & Leadership from Chapman University. Lastly, Sol has a teaching credential and an administration credential from Chapman University. She attended KEEP as a student in 1988, began her educational career in 1998, and began at KEEP in 2015. All the students know Sol as being “The Principal”! Her favorite aspect of KEEP is seeing the students eyes light up with wonder and seeing students that struggle in a traditional classroom flourish!!
Oak earned a BS in Geography at University of College of Wales, Aberystwyth. He started volunteering at Camp KEEP By The Sea in September 1999, and became a staff member in January 2000. Oak is known for his songs, stories and famous astronomy lessons. His favorite part of Camp KEEP By The Sea is meeting new kids every day and taking them to explore the different ecosystems.
Willow graduated with a BA in Recreation and Leisure from San Francisco State University and has a teaching credential from Fresno State. She started working at Camp KEEP By The Sea in 2004.Willow is known for her positive attitude on life, and smiling face no matter what the situation. Her favorite part of Camp KEEP By The Sea is spending time with a new set of students week after week.
John earned a BA in biology and an MA in Marine Science from UC Santa Cruz. His career as an outdoor educator began while he was a graduate student helping develop a summer science program for middle school students from Monterey and Seaside. In 2008, John became a summer outdoor educator with Coyote Road School, and in 2011, He founded Delphinus School of Natural History, a summer outdoor science program focused on marine science, coastal geology, and freshwater ecosystems.
John began his career as a Naturalist with KEEP in 2002 and has enjoyed watching the program grow over the years. One of John’s favorite things about working at KEEP is the opportunity to observe students in their quest to become young scientists and environmental stewards. He enjoys seeing students develop personal relationships with nature, and the look on their faces when they make a new discovery.
Cnidaria earned a BA in Biology from Earlham College and is enrolled at Antioch New England Graduate School in the Conservation Biology Program. She started at KEEP in 2008. Cnidaria is known by all the kids as being the First Aid expert and makes the students feel very safe. Her favorite part of KEEP is sharing her love for the natural world with students and seeing them fall in love with it too!!
Roo is all the way from Australia, and graduated with Bachelors in wildlife and conservation biology from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. She then went on to receive a Masters in Environmental Science in South Australia. Roo started at KEEP in 2016. She is known all around KEEP for her amazing accent and one of our BEETLES experts. Her favorite part about KEEP is seeing students get excited and inspired by spending time in nature!
Lizard received her BS at the University of Maine where she studied applied sciences and business administration. She has taught as a naturalist at Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School and Camp Campbell. Her favorite part of working at KEEP is introducing students to the ocean, sometimes for the first time in their lives. “The KEEP program is the perfect blend of rigorous scientific practice and exciting exploration, so I am just excited that I get to be a member of this team.”
Raven earned a B.S. in Field and Wildlife Biology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Before joining the KEEP By The Sea staff, Raven worked with California State Parks teaching the public how conservation practices can protect the life and habitat of shorebirds. Raven loves sharing new experiences with students, especially when a student overcomes their fear about touching sea creatures or snakes.
Tiger is a San Luis Obispo native, a 1980 graduate of Paso Robles High School. She has over 30 years of commercial driving experience. She is a nurturing soul with our campers and her favorite part of KEEP is working with the students.
Bunny attended the School of Life. He began at KEEP in 2004 cooking for the children. Bunny is known for being the BBQ Master on campus. His favorite aspect of KEEP is the thank you he receives for filling hungry stomachs.
Driving Directions to Camp KEEP By The Sea (from the Bakersfield area)
Sunshine is delicious,
Rain is refreshing,
Wind braces us up,
Snow is exhilarating;
There is really no such thing as bad weather,
Only different kinds of good weather.
Here at Camp KEEP By The Sea we do not believe in bad weather, each weather system brings a new amazing experience for all students, and WE HIKE IN ALL OF THEM!
KEEP By The Sea
P.O. Box 1414
Arroyo Grande, CA 93421
KEEP By The Sea
250 Wesley Street
Arroyo Grande, CA 93421
Camp KEEP Sponsors
The KEEP Foundation is made up of local business and community leaders. The Foundation exists to promote and support the program through various fundraising efforts. In the 2018-19 school year, more than $40,000 was raised for the Foundation’s “Campership” fund that helps send students in need to camp.
The KEEP Foundation exists to . . .
- Promote a greater respect for our environment
- Provide non-advocacy environmental and scientific experiences for our youth
- Support ongoing program needs
- Expand public and corporate awareness of and participation in KEEP
Desiree Von Flue, Program Director
c/o KEEP Foundation
Kern County Superintendent of Schools
1300 17th Street; City Centre
Bakersfield, CA 93301
Ursula Ripley – Chevron
Rob Meszaros – KCSOS
Desiree Von Flue – KCSOS
Tom Alexander – A-C Electric Company
Jim Bartleson – County Board of Education Appointee
Terry Bartz – Frito-Lay Inc.
Jerry Caneta – KCSOS
Gary Chambers – A-C Electric Company
Steve Grove – Applied Technology Group, Inc.
Fred Hrenchir – Hrenchir Safety Consulting
Kathy Jackson – Retired
Steve & Anita Layton – E & B Natural Resources
Lindsay Bentley – 6th Grade Teacher