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Look, Don’t Touch

Dec 12, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog  //  No Comments

The problem with environmental education



THE KIDS HAVE BEEN UP since seven-thirty playing computer games and watching cartoons. What a travesty for them to be inside on such a beautiful day, you harrumph to yourself. On the refrigerator, you notice the schedule of events from the nearby nature center. “Let’s Get Face to Face with Flowers,” it beckons. Just the thing! It’s a sparkly May morning. Buds are bursting. There’s a warm breeze full of the aromatic scent of the woods just waking up.

You trundle the kids into the minivan. They despondently consent. “Do we have to do a program? Programs are boring,” the older one complains. But as soon as you pull into the parking lot at Happy Hills Nature Center, their faces brighten. They fling the sliding door open and scamper down through the blossom-filled meadow to the shore of the pond. Ross, age seven, pulls off his sneakers and wades in, bent over searching for frogs. Amanda, age ten, plops down and starts making a dandelion tiara. What a good decision, you think to yourself. Read more >>

Integrating Environment and Ecology in the Classroom

Dec 11, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, School Programs  //  No Comments

Our environmental programs have rebounded after the initial state budget cuts on education. Schools that missed a year because of tight budgets are back at the McKeever Center participating in our educational programs. For some schools, that provided an opportunity for school personnel to evaluate their annual trips to places like Washington D.C., Science Centers or Gettysburg. What we hear over and over is “we’re looking for something more educational and longer lasting.”

The McKeever Center can assist in fulfilling your science/environmental education requirements. Here are the programs we are currently offering. For more information, visit our website, or contact the center.


Stay a Day, Weekend or a Week

Dec 10, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, Events  //  No Comments

Did you know that you could rent the McKeever Center? Numerous groups and organizations rent the McKeever Center for their own events, whether they are churches, boy/girl scouts, 4-H, rotary or family reunions. McKeever is an excellent facility for businesses, non-profit organizations, colleges/universities and government agencies for staff retreats, workshops or conferences. The center offers a beautiful natural surrounding that enable groups to feel relaxed and at home.


McKeever Update

Dec 9, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, Events, McKeever Center News, School Programs  //  1 Comment

Research on the SunshipTM Earth Program

Nancy Bires, a 26-year veteran teacher in the Hermitage School District and doctoral candidate at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is conducting a study on the long-term influence of the Earth Education program, SunshipTM Earth on environmental attitudes and actions. The topic for her dissertation is of great interest to her since she did her student teaching at McKeever in 1981, the first year the center offered the Sunship Earth program. Sixth grade students from the Delahunty Middle School in Hermitage began participating in the program in 1981. Read more >>

Message From McKeever

Jun 26, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, McKeever Center News  //  No Comments

Friends of McKeever,

I want to take this opportunity to update you on what’s happening at the McKeever Center.

1. McKeever’s Website – I want to thank you for your patience as we move towards providing Hemlock Pathways as an electronic newsletter. We removed your name from our postal mailing list. You will be the first ever to receive Hemlock Pathways as an online newsletter. If you happen to receive a hard copy of the Spring 2012 newsletter, it is because we had a difficult time figuring out who to remove from only an email address. When you signed up for the online newsletter, we did not ask for your name, only your email address. Therefore, we are having trouble matching the email address with the postal mailing address. If you happen to receive a hard copy in the mail, to correct this, you can simply drop us an email with your name and we will make sure to remove you from our postal mailing address.

Our website was developed by Greg Barker, a former SRU student. Greg shares a passion for McKeever and provides us with technical assistance all of the time, at little or no cost. We are trying to manage the site ourselves, but this has always been a difficult task. We are environmental educators, not computer technicians. We just finished the spring 2012 edition of Hemlock Pathways. You should be receiving your online newsletter within one week. Again, thank you for your patience. Once we figure this out, it should go much smoother in the future. This is the first one ever for us.

2. We are putting the final touches on a brand new gift shop at the McKeever Center. It will be ready June 18, 2012. We are expanding the shop to include t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, hats, water bottles, coffee and travel mugs, books, CD’s, tote and field bags, and much more. We now have Earthkeepers and Sunship Earth t-shirts. Please consider supporting this new gift shop. I need to find ways to bring in more revenue; we’re hoping this new gift shop brings in more money.

3. We are nearing the end of our fiscal year. As with many state institutions, we’ll find out about our funding once the state legislature and governor pass that information along to the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). PASSHE will then determine our funding for 2012-13. We will operate as a 9-month facility next year.

In closing, please stay in touch with us. We had a very good year. We appreciate your interest and support. People always ask, “What can I do?” My answer is spread the word. Let people know that the McKeever Center offers exceptional environmental education programs and you can rent the center for all kinds of events and functions. Thank You,

Gardens and Gardening

Jun 25, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, Sustainable Practices  //  No Comments

Gardening for Stress Relief

This article is brought to you by It’s My Nature Aromatherapy and Herbal Comforts Ne.

In its purest form, gardening is about connecting with the earth and resetting our clocks to the simple, natural rhythms of life. Try as we may, we can’t really speed up a tomato plant and make it grow by our time table. We must adapt and in doing so, gardening offers us a gentle reminder about what’s really important in life: food, water, warmth, a bit of loving attention, and some room to grow.

Gardening is one of the fastest growing pastimes in the U.S., as well as one of the healthiest. Beyond its spiritual aspects, gardening can be a great stress reliever. Digging, raking, planting, pruning, and harvesting are physical activities that provide a constructive outlet for tensions that build up in our bodies. Gardening activities draw on your endurance, give you flexibility and strength, build muscle and strengthen the heart and lungs, as well as helping with weight control.

And with numerous studies showing us that regular physical activity reduces your risk of premature death, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, depression and colon cancer, it’s clear that we all must take responsibility for ourselves and do what we can to stay healthy. So if you think you might enjoy gardening, here are some ideas to get you started:

Start small and plant things that you will enjoy. If flowers make you happy, plant a few flowers. Over time you will find what works and what doesn’t. Don’t worry too much about the best way to do things. The most important thing is to just get started.

If you are hoping to reduce stress through gardening, it’s important to make sure that working in the garden doesn’t simply create additional stresses. That means, take it easy. Keep your gardening to-do list short. Stretch before and after working in the garden to minimize aches and pains. Take breaks to sit back, rest and appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Listen to music while you work.

If a large garden sounds like too much work or you don’t have the room, think about trying Micro-gardening. Grow your own plants – food or flowers in containers rather than in a plot of ground. The size of the garden is completely up to you. There’s micro-gardening, and then there’s MICRO-gardening.

If you have access to outside areas such as a patio, balcony or porch, your micro-gardening opportunities increase greatly. You may not even need to buy special pots. If you have old flowerpots, buckets, half-barrels or even concrete blocks, you have the makings of great gardening. Make sure the containers are clean and have drainage holes. If there aren’t any holes, start with a layer of pebbles before adding the dirt.

Herbs grow particularly well indoors. Depending on your cooking style, one plant each can produce all the parsley, dill, thyme, basil and oregano you need for an entire season of meals. Follow the seed packet directions, or buy individual seedlings, and you’re on your way.

Remember that when container-gardening, the plants count on you for their moisture. They might not receive enough rain and dew to grow well, so water the plants when the dirt starts to dry out.

Growing your own makes it easier to get the minimum “five-a-day” servings of veggies and fruits the experts now recommend for health. Recent research confirms that most common fruits and vegetables come packed not only with the vitamins and minerals already known to support good health, but also with “phytonutrients” demonstrated to boost the immune system, retard the aging process, and help heal or prevent many chronic diseases.

Gardening is good exercise, especially if you take a pass on all the latest power tools and put your muscle to the tasks of digging, turning and spreading compost, collecting and spreading mulch, hoeing and picking rocks. Activities like these burn calories, build muscle and strengthen the heart and lungs.

Even a small vegetable garden can save money. To ensure savings, though, a backyard gardener needs to stick to the basic tools and supplies and keep a tight rein on the temptation to own all the newest gadgets. For the biggest savings in energy, dollars and space, look into intensive gardening, the art of producing a lot of food in a small space.

You just can’t beat gardening for stress relief. The simple acts of planting seeds and tending plants can restore balance and perspective during the most wrenching life crises. Research has demonstrated that people heal faster after surgery when exposed to natural scenery – even looking at photographs of green plants speeds recovery. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!

Summer Camps For Kids

Jun 25, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, Events, School Programs  //  No Comments

McKeever is offering a series of summer camps for children ages 5-14. If you’re looking for a fun yet meaningful summer experience for your children, consider one of the McKeever camps. Each camp is designed to connect children with the natural world through play, adventure and fun. You can find detailed information and registration forms on McKeever’s website at From the home page, click on the summer camps tab at the top of the page.

Nature Day Camps

June 11-15, 2012 (Ages 5-7)

July 16-20, 2012 (Ages 8-9)

Our Nature Day Camps are designed to connect children with the natural world through play, adventure and fun – all of which takes place in the natural world at McKeever, it’s trails, forests, streams and the many plants and animals that live there. Throughout the camp, we instill a sense of wonder while children explore the natural world around them. The weeklong camp runs 9AM – 3PM each day. Cost: $95/camper

Earthkeepers Level II

June 20-22, 2012

Earthkeepers Level II is for those students who have earned all four keys and one bead. During this experience, you will gain knowledge about how the earth works by crawling inside the world’s largest leaf, traveling to the “City of the Future” and becoming a part of the Sun’s Bucket Brigade. Other adventures include finding a new magic spot and learning the secrets of becoming a “Nightwatcher.” Cost: $139/camper, includes two nights lodging, seven meals, instruction and materials.

Earthkeepers Summer Camp

July 11-13, 2012

This overnight experience involves students going through the Earthkeepers program, a three-day experience where children earn a set of keys and become an Earthkeeper. A mysterious, unseen character known as E.M. permeates the Earthkeepers program. As the keeper of the keys, E.M. is everyone’s dream of the wizard of the woods. This summer camp is for children ages 10-11. Cost: $139/camper, includes two nights lodging, seven meals, instruction and materials.

Outdoor Adventure Camp

August 8-10, 2012

This three-day overnight camp is for children ages 12-14. Outdoor skills and adventures await, as participants will have an opportunity to hike, canoe and cycle. While honing these skills, we’ll begin working on developing a personal relationship with the natural world. Mornings include sessions on wildlife, ecology, leave no trace and orienteering. Cost: $139/camper, includes two nights lodging, seven meals, instruction and materials.

Workshops for Teachers and Non-Formal Educators

Jun 25, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, Events, Sustainable Practices  //  No Comments

Sustainability in the Classroom Workshop

June 19-21, 2012

This workshop was made possible through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Education. The workshop has three tracks: Organic Farming/Gardening, Climate Change/Marcellus Shale and a workshop titled “Contemplative Experiences . . . in the service of the earth.”

The participants will spend a half-day (on two days) at local organic farms. Three Sisters Farm has been growing and marketing organic produce since 1989. Here you will find 5-acres of gardens that incorporates the permaculture design principles on their farm. After an in-depth overview of their operation, participants will be assigned tasks and begin their ‘chores’.

The next day we’ll travel to Ellen Benek’s farm outside of Sandy Lake. In addition to an impressive organic garden, the Benek’s produce their own milk, yogurt and cheese from their goats. Once again, depending on what needs done at this time of the year will determine our chores for the morning.

Dr. Randall Wiesenmayer, professor of science education at West Virginia University will begin with the basics of the greenhouse effect and the presentation of evidence that the Earth’s climate is warming. But what mechanisms are causing these changes? Is this just a natural cycle like those that have occurred during the past millions of years, or are human activities the cause?

The last part of the workshop will be Steve Van Matre’s Contemplative Experience workshop. This workshop begins Wednesday evening from 6:30 – 9:30 PM and continues Thursday 9 AM – 5 PM. Steve will conduct this powerful workshop, as participants will have the opportunity to examine their personal relationship with the natural world.

Cost: $110, includes two nights lodging, lunch and dinner on Tuesday, breakfast, lunch and dinner on Wednesday and breakfast and lunch on Thursday, instruction, books and materials.


Contemplative Experience. . .in the service of the Earth.

June 20-21, 2012

In these busy times it is easy to get so involved in our daily activities that we lost sight of where we are going in our lives. This workshop is designed to help us consider our personal relationship with the natural world and our role in the movement to sustain it. This is a time to ponder why we do what we do, and refine our own personal quest to be of service to both the planet’s natural systems and communities and its human passengers.

The environmental movement is the largest movement in human history, cutting across all geographic, political and spiritual boundaries. So where do we fit into that movement personally? What is the abstraction we champion, and how can we share it with others?

Cost: $145/person – includes workshop, Wednesday night lodging, dinner on Wednesday and breakfast and lunch on Thursday. The workshop is from 6:30 – 9:30 PM on Wednesday and 9 AM – 5 PM on Thursday. Once we receive your registration and payment, confirmation will be sent to you with detailed information about the workshop.


Interpretive Design & the dance of experience Workshop

June 22-23, 2012

Join us for a special workshop with Steve Van Matre.

Interpretation is the craft of enriching the experience of leisure visitors in places established for the public good. The world’s parks and preserves, gardens and galleries, museums and monuments are the jewels of our societies, set aside because they represent the natural and cultural treasures we want to celebrate today and share with others tomorrow. As a result, they are mission-driven places which also need to justify and garner support for what they are protecting. An interpreter translates the natural and cultural language of such places for its visitors, while immersing them in the essence of its purpose.

Interpretive designers create the leisure journeys that interpreters implement. Just as we have designers today for the buildings, signs, grounds, exhibits, and other components of our mission-driven public places, we need “interpretive designers” who focus on the most important component, the actual experience of the visitors who come. This is a new profession which works with the whole experience that other designers only facilitate in part. Interpretive designers help sites mold their interpretive facilities around the outcomes they intend rather than the structures they inherit. These designers create the interrelated experiential vehicles of interpretive service.

Interpretive Design is for all those who assist visitors in getting to know their public jewels – leisure sites from Aquaria to Zoos – and who aim to enrich those visitors’ experiences in meaningful and memorable ways.

Cost: $225/person – includes workshop, Friday night lodging, lunch and supper on Friday and breakfast and lunch on Saturday. Workshop is from 9 AM – 5 PM on both Friday and Saturday. Once we receive your registration and payment, confirmation will be sent to you with detailed information about the workshop.


Hardwood Lumber Grading Short Course

July 23-26, 2012

The value of ‘rules conscious’ employees is a more carefully manufactured product, a more profitable yield from the log, and a better sense of the value of the lumber being handled. This four-day course will include a thorough study and explanation of the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) Rules Book, emphasizing the basics of hardwood lumber inspection.

This popular course gives yardmen, sawyers, edgermen, sales and office staff, and management level personnel an introduction to lumber inspection. Our instructor is Barry Kibbey, inspector and instructor from the NHLA.

The cost of the course is $349 and includes ten meals, lunch on Monday through lunch on Thursday, three nights lodging, instruction and materials. You can register by downloading a registration flyer from McKeever’s website. From the home page, click the calendar tab, and then click on Hardwood Lumber Grading Short Course. You can also contact the center for more information.

McKeever Update

Jun 25, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, McKeever Center News  //  1 Comment

McKeever Receives DEP Grant

The McKeever Center received an Environmental Education grant from the PA Department of Environmental Protection for $6,495. The grant is earmarked towards the training of college students in environmental education activities and programs. Once trained, college students will teach the environmental education activities to school-aged students as a part of their field trips to the McKeever Center.

Philanthropy Class

The McKeever Center was selected as a ‘client’ in Dr. Alice Del Vecchio’s Philanthropy class at Slippery Rock University. In teams of four, students had the opportunity to work with non-profit organizations during the spring semester. Rather than using theoretical models, the students worked with organizations addressing their ‘real’ needs. In McKeever’s case, the students looked at funding, including annual campaigns, corporate donors, marketing and fund raising events. The team also worked on a four-color brochure, provided insight to McKeever’s mission statement and new tag line. McKeever will receive a CD and binder containing all of the work from the class project. I want to personally thank SRU students Jen Hoffman, Tara McHenry, Lindsey Peters and Vicki Ro. They put together an impressive packet of materials and their class presentation was outstanding.


So far, fifty-one people signed up to receive McKeever’s newsletter ‘Hemlock Pathways’ as an electronic newsletter. In times of cost cutting, this will reduce our operating costs. If you are interested in receiving Hemlock Pathways online, simply go to our website and click on the NEWS image on the home page. This will prompt you to subscribe for the online newsletter.

Community Service Projects

Is your group looking for a community service project? The McKeever Center provides opportunities to complete such projects. Our biggest need is our hiking trails. With the thousands of students who walk the trails each year, our trails always need attention. Another on-going need is providing attention to butterfly garden and native landscaping areas. If this type of project interests you, please contact the center for more information.

McKeever’s Bookstore/Gift Shop – New And Improved!

If you are looking for something for yourself or a gift for someone, think about giving that nature lover something from the McKeever bookstore. We have short and long-sleeved t-shirts, pigment dyed sweatshirts, fleece sweatshirts, hats, coffee mugs and cups, water bottles, stationery/envelopes of Hemlock Hollow/Rocky Basin as well as a nice collection of children’s books.

We’re looking to add new items such as hoodies, Sunship Earth and Earthkeepers t-shirts, tote bags and field guides. If you have an idea on something we should carry, let us know. Remember you can shop online at From the home page, click on the shopping cart image to access the bookstore.


Stay a Day, Weekend or a Week

Jun 25, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, McKeever Center News  //  No Comments

Did you know that you could rent the McKeever Center? Numerous groups and organizations rent the McKeever Center for their own events, whether they are churches, boy/girl scouts, 4-H, rotary or family reunions. McKeever is an excellent facility for businesses, non-profit organizations, colleges/universities and government agencies for staff retreats, workshops or conferences. The center offers a beautiful natural surrounding that enable groups to feel relaxed and at home.

Our three lodges combined can accommodate 156 overnight guests and our auditorium can seat 186 people. There are nine indoor meeting areas available for breakout sessions. The buildings are situated in a circle connected by a paved walkway creating a feeling of community for our groups.

In addition, the center offers two Retreat Houses, each house equipped with five semi-private bedrooms and five private bathrooms. These facilities are used primarily for organizations, colleges and businesses looking for an opportunity to get their staff away from the office, either to engage in long range planning or a staff retreat. If you are interested in renting the McKeever Center, call us at 724.376.1000 or e-mail at


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