Outdoor Education

Go Camp Casey

By Richard 14 Feb, 2017

One of this decade’s most memorable astronomy events will occur on August 21, 2017, when the Moon's shadow will pass over all North America. The path of the umbra, where the eclipse is total, stretches from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. This will be the first total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States in 38 years. From our location at Camp Casey, the eclipse will start at 9:06 a.m. PDT, reach its maximum at 10:19 p.m PDT., and end at 11:41 p.m PDT. Even though we are not on the direct path, the obscuration or point of the Moon being hidden by darkness, will be nearly 90%. This eclipse is being called the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

Observing the night sky is something humans have been doing with great excitement since the beginning of our existence. Today, aided by years of scientific discovery and technological advancements, we can view objects in deep space and gather data, at a level which eludes comprehension for most of us. Yet, the inspiration and awe of viewing the night sky with one’s own eyes or a simple telescope is still the subject of many stories we bring back home with us from camp.

Astronomy, or viewing the night sky, is one of the outdoor education programs available to campers at Casey. You don’t need to be here during one of the notable celestial events to take advantage of learning about the night sky. We have a working relationship with the Island Country Astronomical Society of Washington, who with prior scheduling, are available to provide knowledgeable instructors and facilitators to present astronomy programs. Campers can either request talks and programs on specific subjects or have the facilitator prepare a program of general interest.

Several time a year, Dr. Douglas Downing, an associate professor of economics in the School of Business, Government, and Economics at SPU, is on site viewing the sky with his 25” Obsession telescope. The telescope is housed year-round at Camp Casey, so it’s always ready for Professor Downing and other SPU faculty or qualified persons to roll out and use during their visit. Can you imagine how different the experience is between viewing images on a laptop to looking directly through this powerful telescope? Check out some of the celestial events happening in 2017. Why not add astronomy to your outdoor education program?

By Richard 30 Jan, 2017

Watching kids discover the world around them is one of the greatest joys adults share. Outdoor education is one of the many activities that bring groups to Casey. Our location is unique in that we are surrounded by beach, wetlands, and forest. These offer opportunities for guided exploration and discovery.

One of the things that most outdoor education group leaders have in common is their desire for children to “unplug” and leave their mobile devices at home. Their reasoning is quite sound - observe the wonders of the world around you. But what if those mobile devices could enhance the learning experience? How about some of these ideas:

·        When coming to Casey for Birding, download Birdsnap. This is an app developed by Columbia University, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. According to the iTunes description: “Birdsnap uses visual recognition technology to identify birds in images you upload.”  Based on your location and the time of year, Birdsnap knows which birds are present, and can use this to produce a custom guide to the local birds and to improve the automatic identification results. It covers 500 of the most common North American bird species.

·        It is amazing how many astronomy apps are available, ranging from very basic to very professional. Going outside in the evening after dinner can add to the magic of camp. Casey is away from the urban light pollution and on clear nights offers lots of stargazing opportunities. A simple app like SkyView provides plenty of functionality to satisfy your curiosity about what you are viewing in the night sky.

·        Interested in joining a community of naturalists? Check out iNaturalist. This app will use your device’s GPS to show you animals and plants others have observed and posted. It allows you to record your own photos and observations and share them with fellow naturalists using the app. Unsure of the species, no problem! The app connects with experts who will identify the organisms you observe. Imagine the excitement your group will experience by trying to find as many species as possible!

Depending on the focus of your group’s retreat or camp, bringing technology along can be an asset. It may take a little research and advanced planning to find just the right app for your event, but it will pay off in the end. Just remember, when not involved with the formal outdoor education events, the kids can still “unplug”!

Relevant Links:




By Richard 14 Dec, 2016
Are you planning to add educational activities to your retreat agenda or looking to add astronomy to your outdoor education program? If so, consider stargazing at Camp Casey. By doing a little research, you’ll easily be able to find notable events occurring in the sky during the times that you’re planning your visit. As an example, February will be one of the best times this year to view Venus. It will achieve its greatest brilliancy on February 18. Another notable stargazing event occurring in February is the close approach of Mars and Uranus on February 26. The pair will become visible around 6:33 p.m., as the dusk sky fades, 30 degrees above the southwestern horizon. They will then sink towards the horizon, setting around 9:43 p.m.

The best stargazing locations are away from the city lights, where the dark sky offers millions of stars to view. Even though the weather is more predictable on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, the west side offers premier locations too. Camp Casey is one such premier location. Just ask Douglas Downing, Seattle Pacific University associate professor of economics and adjunct professor of astronomy.

Downing maintains a 25” f/5 Obsession telescope at Camp Casey year-round, so it’s always ready for him and other SPU faculty to roll out and use when they are visiting. The telescope’s Newtonian reflector with a Dobsonian mount combines great optics for viewing and portability. When Downing is at Camp Casey, he is all too eager to share viewing the moon, planets and stars through the telescope with anyone interested, as well as stage some impromptu star-gazing and provide insights and commentary about the night sky with anyone willing to look and learn. The Camp Casey staff make a point to let guests know if he is planning to pull out the telescope while they are here.

Camp Casey’s location away from the metropolitan light pollution makes it an ideal location for viewing the night sky, even without the aid of a high-power telescope. For optimum stargazing, choose nights around or at the start of a new moon. Best times for viewing the night sky is typically 3 – 4 hours after sunset. If you are interested in adding a stargazing program to your group’s visit to Camp Casey, let us know.

Additional Resource: 2017 Celestial Events
By Richard 13 Jun, 2016

A group of 11 students and their teacher from a STEM school in Denver, Colorado, spent a cool evening around a campfire on the Camp Casey beach listening to Native American stories told by Lou LaBambard. A long-term resident of Whidbey Island, Lou has spent more than 50 years offering countless lessons in history, tradition, and culture as a Native American storyteller. If you've attended the Coupeville Water Festival anytime since its inception 25 years ago, you may have had an opportunity to hear his storytelling.

With a backdrop of the beach and a setting sun, LaBombard tells of how his Delaware mother, Seneca/Mohawk father, and his grandmother carried him in a cradle-board during Pow Wows, and how he listened to tribal elders and storytellers of many tribal nations.   He shared how Native Americans use these oral traditions instead of the written language to document their history. But more than that, they use these stories to teach proper behaviors, norms, and values to their children.

The students had a chance to hear the story of two Pueblo children and a dragonfly that teach us the lessons of not wasting food or resources. They hear the story of a small mouse who made his way to the top of a mountain and along the way met a bison and a wolf, sacrificed his eyesight, and eventually morphed into a golden eagle. The lesson of the mouse is that the purpose of life is to be selfless and of service to others. He also speaks on the spiritual beliefs of several Native American nations. The Navajos believe in an evolution of the world from a cold mist that eventually gave form from water. The Iroquois and Algonquin’s beliefs are more similar to the book of Genesis.

Through storytelling, Native American tribes share, preserve, and pay tribute to their early beginnings, so future generations can continue their legacy. Camp Casey makes experiencing this rich tradition available to groups as part of their programming. Groups visiting Camp Casey can add Native American storytelling by Lou LaBambard  to their outdoor education program or as part of their retreat agenda. Whatever your motivation, you are most likely to come away from this experience enriched and with a new appreciation of Native American culture.

Professor Lou LaBombard has taught at Skagit Valley College on the Whidbey campus for more than 21 years. His areas of expertise include anthropology, sociology, Native American studies, and ethnic studies. He has worked in archaeology and ethnology on Whidbey and elsewhere for more than 35 years. Lou has lectured for many groups as a professional, international teller of Native American oral traditions, and has been a head singer and traditional dancer, "whip man" and judge at pow wows around the country. Prior to joining Skagit Valley College, he was chair of the Social Sciences Department. of Navajo College, Tsaille, Arizona. His family has resided in this area for 22 years.

By Richard 17 May, 2016
Long nagged by memories of the only successful attack on our nation’s capital before 9/11/01, the British invasion of 1814, advocates for “homeland security” in the 1860s and 1870s turned to massive coast guns to protect the three American coasts. One of the first installations came at the mouth of the Columbia River; within a generation, Puget Sound had its own defenses. Now quaint state parks, these artifacts of a past obsession with “Never again!” raise fascinating questions about threats both imagined and real, and responses both psychological and tangible.  

William Woodward, Ph.D., will tell the tale of these silent sentinels as a virtual tour on June 17, 2016, 2pm, in Auditorium A, Camp Casey Conference Center. What unfolds will be the story both of America’s changing engagement with the world and its reliance on new technologies to “guarantee” security. Who knew that the massive disappearing guns at Fort Casey would lead to the electronic computer, or that inadequate manpower in the active Army would require augmentation by local reserve and National Guard units, leading to today’s “Total Force”?

This 'talk' is part of the Camp Casey Open House .  William Woodward, Ph.D., is Professor of History at Seattle Pacific University.
By Richard 25 Apr, 2016

 My 11-year-old grandson, Lars, has been visiting Camp Casey for a number of years. He’s experienced a s’mores campfire by the sea, hiked in the mystical woods in search of owls, cavorted among the historic Army bunkers, photographed the resident deer, flown kites, beachcombed, and swum in the Casey pool. But as wonderful as all these experiences are, they have met their equal in the Beach Seine adventure he experienced in April.

 Casey Site Manager Darrell Jacobsen and his team were warm, friendly, and accommodating. They took a motorboat off the beach and played out a long net in a horseshoe pattern. Once the net was in place, those of us left on shore grabbed onto ropes attached to both ends of the net and pulled it in. Lars was invited to jump into the fray and hauled away with all his might.

 Once the net was gathered back to shore, we scrambled among the contents and dropped crabs, sea stars, shrimp, tiny sculpins, and some kind of eel-looking animal into buckets of sea water. Lars’ yelps of delight at catching the energetic ocean creatures were wonderful to hear. He’s in a marine biologist frame of mind right now and when he’s old enough would like to study the environmental sciences at SPU and its Blakely Island Field Station.

 The sea creatures we caught were quickly installed back at Camp Casey in gurgling touch tanks housed in the Sea Lab building. Lars and I were shown the resident sea life and were able to observe how the recently arrived “neighbors” assimilated into their new surroundings. Lots of questions from Lars, all of which were patiently answered with good humor and interesting facts from the knowledgeable staff. He was especially attracted to the wolf eel lurking in the kelp. It was a fun time of discovery (and family bonding) that reinforced Lars’ desire to one day work to preserve ocean habitat.

By Clint Kelly

By Richard 14 Apr, 2016

During a recent education class held at Camp Casey, we had the opportunity to meet Kelly Zupich and Mary Jo Ada of Sound Water Stewards. They presented their plankton tow program to a group of 4th and 5th graders from the Tahoma School District. What would you possibly want to learn about plankton? Well, if you are like us, lots. You might already know that most plankton are too small to be individually seen with the naked eye, which is where microscopes and overhead displays come in handy.   But did you know it is estimated that 50-85 percent of the world's oxygen is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis?   Kelly said the most memorable quote of the day was one girl saying she really wanted to catch a phytoplankton because it was her favorite! That’s not a comment one tends to hear from a 4th grade child.

For Sound Water Stewards (formerly Beach Watchers), whose trained volunteers number more than 560 in Island County, efforts are endless:

·      Monitoring our beaches and near-shore flora/fauna, eelgrass, and kelp beds.

·      Restoring wetlands and pulling noxious weeds.

·      Gathering data for government and university scientists.

In addition to their tireless efforts in and around the Sound, they host the annual One Day University. If you missed this year’s event, be sure to put it on your calendar for 2017. Open to the general public, the university typically offers more than 60 classes. 2016's class leaders and topics included Brian Atwater, a UW geologist and research professor, who discussed Cascadian Subduction Zones; Joy Johnson, a local bird photographer, who co-wrote Our Pacific Northwest Birds & Habitat ; and Cliff Mass, UW Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and renowned Seattle weather personality, who spoke on Climate Change.


Volunteers also educate the public at large formal events, in local schools and outdoor classrooms, in parks (they'll be co-located at Ft. Ebey this year), at festivals such as the Penn Cove Mussel Fest, and in one-to-one around tide pools and healthy beach environments, such as the night-time viewing class of the tide pools at Rosario Beach.

Interested in volunteering – it will take a commitment of your time. Volunteers attend several days of classroom instruction and are asked to contribute 100 hours in exchange. But your efforts in and around Camano and Whidbey Islands will help create a healthy, sustainable Puget Sound environment.

By Richard 22 Feb, 2016

Of the many beauties I’ve seen in this position over the past seven years at Camp Casey, a child’s wonder and growth is at the top. With the many classes we teach that offer engagement with the outdoors, I am never without joy when a child discovers something unique. The delight on a child’s face when they touch or spy a creature, plant or wildlife is inspiring. I’m pretty proud to offer this opportunity to locals, as well as thousands of others who visit us from the region during my tenure at Camp Casey.

Whidbey has many fascinating natural environments surrounding it, but I believe the most diverse and complex habitat is hidden from view. Our Sea Lab probes the biology of the depths by showcasing local marine life and teaching the importance of conservation. The lab features dozens of aquariums that house fascinating creatures such as sea urchins, sea stars, sea cucumbers, and last year even a pregnant octopus who was taking up residence in a discarded bleach bottle! This discovery became a startling visual observation for students to personally witness the importance of keeping trash out of our waters. The class is taught by local Keith Ludeman, who has been teaching at Camp Casey for 30-plus years. He’s even seen some of his pupils become teachers and return with their students!

Keith also teaches a class with a hands-on opportunity to discover how the Sea Lab acquires some of its inhabitants through the Beach Seine class. After the net is pulled ashore, Keith takes out the creatures captured and teaches about them, one by one. Many of the animals collected are transported to the Sea Lab, while others are returned to the water.

As Keith has slowed down his walking, he’s trained our new teacher TJ to deliver guided Forest and Meadow Walks that introduce students to the exceptionally diverse habitats nearby. I’ve enjoyed trekking on these with students who find the fun in such nature as slug slime. One only has to walk behind two sixth-grade boys to remember the fun found in nature. The varied landscape of the trail provides the perfect opportunity for the instructor to teach students about the different plants and animals that inhabit the area as the trail goes through the heritage forest and the prairie land nearby. Some of the plants are endangered species or invasive species, which our local EcoNet assists with identifying. Some schools spend time volunteering with local agencies to eradicate an area of invasive species.

As an Oak Harbor High School graduate and former student at Broadview Elementary, I so enjoy welcoming back our local school children for day trips to these classes. The Sea Lab, Beach Seine, and Forest/Meadow Walks are available for registration through schools and non-profit organizations.

We also will be offering another open house on Sunday, June 19 and the Sea Lab will be open with Keith teaching continued conservation and care for our earth and its inhabitants.

By Richard 12 Feb, 2016

If your group is going to be at Camp Casey February 12 – 15, you will be in a great location to participate in a worldwide event. This period marks the 19th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). During the 2015’s event, over 140,000 participants from more than 100 countries reported more than 5,000 species —half the total bird species in the world! This event created the largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded.

There are numerous online resources (a few are listed below) and Whidbey Island provides many opportunities for sightings, including Camp Casey’s many open fields and trails. Nearby Crockett Lake provides a mixture of fresh and salt water, surrounded by marsh and grassland and frequently exposed mud flats rich with all kinds of small invertebrates. The perfect setting to attract many birds throughout the year. Crockett Lake touts at least 17 species of shorebirds have been recorded here, including: Western, Least, Bairds, Pectoral, and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Peregrine Falcons and Merlins, Bald Eagles and Northern Harriers. The surrounding grasslands and marshes have Savannah, Song and White-crowned Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, and American Goldfinches.   Great Blue Herons use the lake as a foraging site during the breeding season.

If you will not be at Camp Casey during the GBBC, why would you be interested in the Great Backyard Bird Count anyway? You need go no further than your own backyard in order to participate. But for those of you seeking opportunities to get your children out of the house, it provides endless options for locations from which to watch and an easy family outing. It’s something that requires no special gear, apart from a pair of binoculars, paper and pencils. You can spend as little as 15 minutes on one or more days of the four-day event and report your sightings online at birdcount.org.

Do you need help with some options for getting your youth or church group outdoors during the remaining months of winter? Our Youth Outdoor Education Package is popular. This package offers 3 days and 2 nights of lodging and at least 7 meals. It gives young people the opportunity to connect with nature through a variety of planned outdoor education activities.



By Richard 15 Nov, 2015

2015 marks the 13th   year that Lee Southard and his team have brought his Entiat Middle School 6th   grade class to Camp Casey. Volunteer parents and leadership chaperones from Entiat Middle School are included in this adventure. This is Lee’s story:

"Many of our students have never left our neck of the woods. Every year I have students that have never been to Seattle; most have never been to the Pacific Science Center or ridden on a ferry.

We stop at Snoqualmie Falls and the Pacific Science Center on the first leg of our trip. First day lunch is always burgers from Seattle’s famous Dick’s Drive-In. We then cross on the ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton.

At camp, we participate in the sea lab, beach seine, and forest meadow classes, taught by Keith Ludeman. It is apparent from the students' first contact with Keith that they are in for an educational, entertaining, and fun time. Keith draws the students in even if they are normally not inclined to do so. Whether it’s the “Velcro” he tosses on students during the forest meadow walk, the sea-star pulling the hair off his eyebrows in the sea lab, or pulling of the net in the beach seine, students are engaged and hands-on during one of Keith’s classes.

We go on an Island Historical Tour with former Coupeville teacher Diane Eelkema. The students always enjoy this and learn a lot. Diane is a great storyteller and educator. Without knowing it, students learn about Island history, economics, agriculture, and culture.

Other yearly events are Fort Casey and Admiralty Head Lighthouse guided tours. Students really look forward to playing Capture-The-Flag at the state park. We have a fort building contest on the beach using driftwood. Groups can use any materials on the beach in fort building. Rubrics are provided and forts are judged on structure, aesthetics, essentials, distress signal, etc.

The Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is always one of our students' favorite events. Students see aircraft and their pilots up-close. This is another opportunity for our students to see potential future careers that they cannot witness at home. Girls see that there are women pilots, as well as male pilots.

Another great history lesson comes from the Island County Museum tour. This year’s tour included a new Native American display, a tour of the old town, and a tour of the rest of the museum.

During the trip, students are required to keep a record of the experience in their journals. The journals have questions for students to answer. Students also get to draw and diagram pictures. Some of the journal entries require the students to work in groups and complete an activity. When students have to stop and write and draw about their experiences, it gives them more meaning, learning, and memories.

There are countless hands-on learning moments on Whidbey Island. The class sees other cultures and backgrounds other than their own. A benefit from having attended for so many years is that multiple siblings get to share the same experience, even if they are separated by many years. I am always impressed with Camp Casey personnel, as they are friendly and accommodating. Island residents are very helpful and friendly.

In summation, there are many reasons we return every year: New and different experiences that are different than what the students can get at home. Tradition, Island history, friendly and welcoming people, and camp personnel. Scenery, countless learning opportunities, making new friends, and being away from home for days for the first time.  These and other benefits keep us coming back."

Lee Southard
Entiat Middle School
6th   Grade Teacher

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