KECA’s Educational Opportunities
The Elk Country Visitor Center is an educational facility which advocates for the conservation of natural resources, with an emphasis on elk and elk habitat in the Pennsylvania Wilds and is operated by the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, a non-profit, 501©(3) wildlife conservation organization. The center’s conservation education staff hosts school groups of all ages, as well as public youth and adult groups, and civic organizations, providing quality educational programs on elk and other wildlife, the natural history of the region,
and conservation in general.
Our educational programs are not only age-appropriate and cross-curricular, but are aligned with current Pennsylvania State Education Standards. Teachers and groups may opt to select the specific program topics and activities which best fulfill their cla
ssroom curriculum needs or scout merit badge requirements. We have had the pleasure of reaching over 36,000 individuals with our educational programs, and have assisted over 128,000 visitors with their elk and wildlife questions. The following sections describe our one-of-a-kind learning experiences—both at the center and in your classroom. 

Educational Trips to the Center
Our educational facilities at the center can easily accommodate both small and large groups. The Discovery Room is ideal for smaller programs and activities. For larger audiences, the Elk Country Campus Outdoors (ECCO) building allows the staff to educate up to 150 visitors at a time.

The Discovery Room is located in the Visitor Center and is equipped with a projector and screen for educational programs. It is great for small educational presentations and is also spacious enough for hands-on activities like our antler scoring program.

The ECCO Building itself is an educational tool that demonstrates the Keystone Elk Country Alliance’s dedication to sound environmentally-friendly practices. The ECCO building features a state of the art biomass boiler, radiant in-floor heat, and a magnificent fireplace that was hand-crafted from stone harvested from the property. Our NanaWall glass walls allow the comfort of an enclosed classroom or the opportunity to open the walls to enjoy nature. In the ECCO Building, groups can learn about the environmentally-friendly design of our buildings as well as enjoy a number of our other educational programs. 

Not only does the Elk Country Visitor Center boast two charming educational classrooms, the center has also deeply ingrained education into its interactive exhibits. Students can tour the center’s Great Room and learn about the various animals that call Pennsylvania home—including our favorite, the elk! In addition to the Great Room, the visitor center also has a 4D sensory theater that takes its audience on a journey into the past to learn the history of Pennsylvania’s elk herd. Lastly, and certainly not least, the center also has a nature trail that leads to an outdoor classroom so that students can enjoy nature while they learn. 

Educational Distance Learning Program
Here at the Elk Country Visitor Center, we understand that not all schools and groups are able to physically come to the center. That is where the Keystone Elk Country Alliance’s innovative and interactive Distance Learning Program comes in! Using a live-action software application like Skype or Google Hangouts, our education staff is able to connect with classrooms all over the United States to deliver our programs online at NO CHARGE! What’s even better? In addition to our education sessions, each group will receive an “Elk Trunk” full of props students can see and touch while learning about elk from us here at the center. No other distance learning program offers this tactile interactive experience, which ignites enthusiasm and a sense of wonder for children of all ages.

“Thank you for this fabulous opportunity. I wish I could be in the 4th graders’ homes tonight to hear what they shared with their families. One of my students and her family are planning to come to The Elk Center this weekend. She is very excited to show her family what she has learned.”     ~Angela Homan, teacher

So far KECA’s one-of-a-kind distance learning experience has positively impacted over 4,900 students in 22 Pennsylvania counties and also the states of New York, Virginia and Florida. As this amazing program continues to expand, many more children will have the opportunity to cultivate a sense of connectedness to nature, and especially, to elk and their habitat.

Our Distance Learning program is made possible through the generous support of:

Lesson Topics Include, but are not limited to:
  • Population Dynamics
  • Elk Basics
  • LEED & Green Energy
  • Pennsylvania Reptiles
  • Nature Walk
  • Radio Telemetry
  • Habitat Management
A sample of our Lesson Plans can be view by clicking on the                          appropriate title below:
Don’t see quite what you’re looking for? No problem, our conservation education department will work with you to create a custom lesson plan for you and your students!

Kids for Environmental Conservation Awareness, is our new video series that will highlight a variety of Conservation Education topics.  Our education team looks forward to bringing you a variety of fun and educational videos in the coming months.
Our Conservation Education Team
Ben Porkolab - Ben grew up spending most of his time hunting, fishing, and exploring the outdoors. He earned a scholarship to attend the Safari Club International’s Wildlife Leadership School in Jackson Hole Wyoming while in high school. During this time he attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania and obtained his Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education. Ben student taught at McKeever Environmental Learning Center and absolutely loved his experience there. Upon college graduation, Ben taught elementary school for two years in the bush country of Alaska and then taught one year in Nevada. He then chose to return to his family and his roots in the hills of Pennsylvania, and took a teaching position in nearby Cameron County where he has taught for the past 20 years. While there Ben has been very involved in many conservation education programs. Some of those were Trout in the Classroom, a pheasant egg hatching program, a con-ed program with the Cameron County Conservation District, working with 4H, programs with the local gardening club, working closely with the Cameron County Outdoor Youth Association and National Archery in the Schools Program. He is also trained in Project Wild, Project Wet, and Wild About Elk. Ben has also taught Hunter-Trapper Education with the PA Game Commission for the past ten years. Now living in St. Marys, Ben continues to find himself in the woods, and on the rivers and streams.

Victoria Challingsworth - Victoria graduated Thiel College with a BS in Environmental Science.  Victoria interned as a Backcountry Steward Intern for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation.  She has extensive training in trails and educational outreach and worked with foresters to  layout, construct and rehabilitate trails.  Knowledge of ARC GIS mapping is a valuable tool that Victoria will put to use in her work at the Center.  She also brings to the table strong computer proficiencies from working as a IT Technician at Thiel College.

Doty McDowell
, Field Director/Habitat Manager - Doty graduated with a BA in Biology from Thiel College. Doty recently retired from the PA Game Commission having worked as Surveyor Technician, Wildlife Conservation Officer, Land Manager and Information and Education Supervisor.  The last 20 years were specifically working within Pennsylvania's elk range. 

Mandy Marconi, Pa Game Commission graduated from Penn State University.  Mandy is an Environmental Education Specialist with the Pa Game Commission. 

For more information, or to schedule a visit or distance learning session, please call our Conservation Education Department at 814-787-5173 or email
Upcoming Events

June - August:
7 days a week 8am – 8pm
September – October:

7 Days a Week | 8am – 8pm
November – December:
Thursday – Monday | 9am – 5pm Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
January – March:

Saturday & Sunday Only | 9am – 5pm **Closed Easter Sunday
April – May:
Thursday – Monday | 9am – 5pm
(closed Tues & Wed)
**Closed Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, 1st Day of Buck, Christmas, New Years**