In Memory of Elizabeth Kellogg: Feb. 19, 1918, to Aug. 19, 2013
Elizabeth Kellog earned her nickname Thor, a hammer-wielding Norse god associated with thunder, oak trees, strength and the protection of mankind and healing, because of her passion and energy and her unyielding belief in outdoor, nature-based educational programs. Thor died peacefully last Monday, Aug. 19, in her sleep surrounded by her family, at the age of 95.
She and her husband, Will, and their children spent most of their summers at the Tree Ranch on Magnolia Road, a haven where she learned first-hand the importance of introducing children to the beauty of meadows, the life water of ponds and love and grace of wildlife. Her diminutive size was offset by the fierce nature of her love for her family and the animals they harbored, of the friends and colleagues with which she shared her strong opinions and educated advice.
Elizabeth was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Norwegian-American parents who moved to Los Angeles when she was a child. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California-Los Angeles in 1940 and met Will while they were both graduate students at UC-Berkley. She received her secondary teaching credentials in 1941 and began teaching English at the high school level in Pacific Palisades, California.
By the early 1950s, Kellogg had five children, and her observations of their learning process led her to fresh and innovative ideas about early childhood education. Elizabeth became co-director of a pioneering outdoor, nature-based preschool program that included creative arts and an active, serious parent education component.
During this time, Will Kellogg developed his distinguished career as a research meteorologist and was appointed as a senior scientist of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The family moved to Boulder in 1964, and Elizabeth Kellogg became one of the first Head Start teachers in Boulder County, with the first group of year-round teachers.
In 1968, the Boulder County Head Start was selected as one of 30 best-in-the-nation and was a federal grant recipient for the Follow Through Program to demonstrate how the experiential methods of Head Start, ‘followed through’ for success in kindergarten through third grade.
The model selected by the Head Start parents for their new program was that offered by the Bank Street School of Education, and Elizabeth was chosen to photo-document the experiment for the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Combining her love of photography and early childhood education resulted in her first book, “Following Through with Young Children,” in 1969.
This achievement, her ability to capture photographs of children in moments of intense curiosity led to an invitation from David and Frances Hawkins to document their innovative program at the Mountain View Center. At that time, she said, “I had long felt that the use of photography as a serious observational tool for school documentation had been neglected. The lively atmosphere of a well-functioning classroom, like a good theatre, is generally but a memory in the mind’s eye of the participant.
“The motivation of children is a complex thing, and no picture can do justice to the full dimensions of the actual scene, but when photographs are used in constructive and systematic ways to illuminate process rather than to tab results, and when they are accompanied by words which help us to understand background preparation, setting and goals, they can suggest some of the feeling and flavor of learning climates where there is deep involvement and commitment, and sometimes even excitement.”
At the age of 90, Elizabeth began writing her second book, “David Hawkins and the Pond Study and David and Frances Hawkins and the Mountain View Center for Environmental Education,” which came out in 2010. In 2009, she was honored with the Hawkins Lifetime Achievement Award given by Boulder County Association for the Education of Young Children.
In 2007, Elizabeth was named one of the “Spunky Women of Boulder,” by the Butcher Foundation. She was preceded in death by her husband, Will, and has been the loving matriarch of the Kellogg family, spending time with them at the ranch, climbing now and then to an outcropping known as ‘Thor’s Rock.’
Tom Kellogg said: “My mom was an amazing woman, very complex with two distinct personalities — one nurturing and kind, the other controlling and dominating. She was an educator who believed that children learn best in a hands-on world of discovery and nature.
“In addition to her wonderful family, she left behind two incredible legacies. One was her work in early childhood education, where she helped pioneer the first Head Start program in Boulder County, then went on to write several books on education.
“Her last and most influential book was published when she was 92, in which I had the honor of working closely with her for two years, as her technical assistant. It was actually two books in one: “Part 1, David Hawkins and the Pond Study”, and “Part 2, David and Frances Hawkins and the Mountain View Center for Environmental Education.”
Tom also said that the family is carrying on their mother’s passion for nature-based education and they have been working with Jill Dreves of Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center to establish a children’s camp at the ranch. Tom is the president, founder and director of Camp Quest Colorado, which just started up this year in Colorado.
It is a national organization of co-ed secular science and nature based camps for children. It is non-profit and all volunteer, and absolutely non-discriminating. Camp Quest Colorado had its first camping event several weeks ago at the ranch. It was a Family Weekend Retreat, and very successful.
Next year, the organization will rent an established camp for a week, to offer a residential camp for children only. The family weekend camps will continue at the ranch. Visit campquest.org and campquestco.org.
Tom is also collaborating with Wild Bear Ecology Center to do workshops at the ranch. Utilizing their property for education is part of the vision that Thor had for the ranch.
She loved showing her grandchildren all of the miracles of nature that she taught her own children, and the music and feast parties at the ranch were usually blessed by her appearance. Elizabeth is survived by five children; eight grandchildren; two step-grandchildren, one great granddaughter and her beloved basset hound Boo.
A memorial will be held over the Thanksgiving Weekend.