Twenty-five years ago, when Barb Suggs became a teacher at Seattle Christian Schools, she observed something that she felt needed to change. The school had never had an outdoor education program. Inspired by her love of the outdoors, Suggs and her mentor teacher set out to put together what she calls a “hands-on, transcending experience for our students” at Camp Casey Conference Center. Every year the school returns to Camp Casey to explore its surrounding eco-systems, learn about marine life and work closely with Camp Casey’s exceptional outdoor education instructors.
“One year, when we had only come to Casey a few times, we thought we would try another outdoor education camp where we wouldn’t need to plan our own program, but just show up and be met by teachers who took on all of the educational responsibilities, “ Suggs said. “However, we quickly found that that experience didn’t hold a candle to Casey because of the many different ecosystems and points of unique interest Casey offers: saltwater, meadow, forest, fort and lighthouse history.”
Every year Seattle Christian Schools books multiple outdoor education classes. In the Sea Lab Class, instructor, Keith Ludeman, helps the kids net animals directly from the sea and learn about their eco-system. While in the Meadow Forest Walk class, he also takes the students on hikes and teaches forest-meadow plant identification and habitat. “Keith always makes camp memorable!” Suggs said.
The Seattle Christian Schools’ outdoor education curriculum includes classes on rope making, using a compass, beach life, forest habitats and identifying animal tracks. All of which are designed to teach students to explore, enjoy and preserve the world around them.
“Besides being a vital part of our science curriculum, there are many life skills learned and developed when you live with your classmates for four days,” Suggs said. Even the parents and teens that volunteer to come to Camp Casey as counselors and cooks leave with a greater sense of appreciation for the world.
Over the past 15 years, Seattle Christian Schools has also used Camp Casey as a means to forward their mission of serving others. They invite fifth graders from smaller Christian schools to join them at Casey. This allows schools that wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend camp the ability to join in the experience, enriching the lives of everyone involved.