He responded that “Sunship Earth” is a trademarked, copywritten program that “retrains” young minds as to how the earth functions. The program looks at energy flows, food chains, habitats, plant and animal adaptations and the diversity of life, he said.
With travel time, students are really only at McKeever for four full days, and to cut the program to three days or less guts its effectiveness, Bires said.
He said he “doesn’t buy” that students are getting in the classroom what McKeever offers.
“You learn better when you have something in your hand,” he said.
Kon-O-Kwee’s team-building and other non-environmental programs take students away from the reason they are at camp to begin with, Bires said.
“I have a hard time convincing myself and calling it environmental education,” he said. “It’s outdoor education. It’s a socialization experience.’
Teachers who bring their students to McKeever are asked to review the program and have routinely praised the staff and the program, which is in line with state standards, he said.
Bires acknowledged it can be difficult for children to be away from their homes for a length of time, but contended that a change of scenery can be good.
“You can really turn them on,” he said. “They’re not going home and jumping on their Gameboys or their (computer) monitors or their TVs. “
Nancy Bires did her doctoral dissertation on “Sunship Earth’s” long-term affect and found that students still think back to what they learned at McKeever when they consider environmental issues as adults, her husband said.
“It works,” he said. “It’s effective.”