Camp KEEP Secures Grant to Enhance Environment Sustainability Education

Tuesday June 11, 2024

The California Coastal Commission has approved 60 Whale Tail Grant applications totaling $2.3 million for non-profit organizations’ projects and programs that provide educational experiences focused on coastal protection, public access, and environmental justice. The Kern Environmental Education Program (Camp KEEP) is one of the grant recipients. Meghan Michel, a naturalist at KEEP Ocean who wrote and applied for the grant, is thrilled about the new funding.

“This grant opens up exciting opportunities for us to deepen our engagement with students and empower them to become agents of positive change in their communities,” she said.

The purchase of Whale Tail License Plates helps fund sustainability grants in California.

Whale Tail Grants are supported by California drivers who purchase Whale Tail License Plates and taxpayers who “Check the Coast” at tax time with contributions to the Protect Our Coast and Ocean Fund. Since 1998, the Commission has awarded over $20 million to close to 1,000 grants, primarily for projects that provide opportunities for inland, rural, and historically excluded communities to experience and learn about the coast and ocean and develop leadership, stewardship, and science-based skills.
A flagship project the grant supports is updated teacher resources that will enhance the student experience at both the KEEP Ocean and By the Sea campuses. KEEP staff plan to update pre- and post-trip curriculum resources for classroom teachers who accompany their students to KEEP. KEEP will present four teacher training sessions this fall in partnership with the Kern County Superintendent of Schools STEAM Department and Ten Strands, a state-wide environmental education non-profit. These sessions will equip educators with the tools to integrate sustainability principles and place-based learning into their teaching practices.
“By empowering teachers with a curriculum accessible and responsive to student needs, we can ensure that students are prepared for their week at KEEP and can apply what they have learned back in their communities,” Michel said.
Another key project funded by this grant is the establishment of a “Sustainable Living Lab” on the KEEP Ocean campus. This innovative space will serve as a hub for experiential learning, featuring interactive stations dedicated to exploring energy usage, water conservation, agriculture, waste management, and native plant species. The Lab is expected to be operational in September 2024.
“The Sustainable Living Lab will provide students with a hands-on platform to delve into topics that directly impact their lives, fostering a deeper connection to environmental issues,” Michel said.

The grant also includes funding for two all-terrain/beach wheelchairs, underscoring KEEP’s commitment to inclusivity and equal access to educational opportunities.
As KEEP embarks on this new journey, supported by the Whale Tail Grant Program, it reaffirms California’s commitment to environmental education and community empowerment, paving the way for a more sustainable future.

More than 8,000 Kern County sixth graders visit Camp KEEP’s two campuses every school year.

By Robert Meszaros

By Robert Meszaros

Rob Meszaros is Director of Communications for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, where he has served since 2012. In his role, Meszaros oversees media relations, internal and external communication strategies, publications, Marcom, branding, and multi-media content creation. Before joining KCSOS, Meszaros was the PIO for CSU Bakersfield and earlier worked for seven years at The Bakersfield Californian.