A special educational opportunity is open to students in the Battle Ground Public Schools district, as the Center for Agriculture, Science and Environmental Education (CASEE Center) has served thousands of students through classes and field trips in the past 30 years.
On Saturday, Sept. 30, the CASEE Center held a public celebration with a panel discussion, student-led tours, cake and more to celebrate 30 years in Battle Ground. Many former CASEE students joined the tours to see their old stomping grounds and how things have evolved or even stayed the same as they remember.
The CASEE Center serves as a STEM program with environmental-based education for high school students in the Battle Ground Public Schools district. Students come to the learning center in three-hour blocks where they receive science and English instruction. Courses at CASEE include biology, natural resources, environmental science, forestry, wildlife, chemistry, food science, microbiology, agricultural and industrial biotechnology and four years of high school English.
As agriculture, science and environmental education has evolved since CASEE’s creation, the learning center has adapted to and adopted the new technologies through the years, but the heart and soul remains the same.
“CASEE is one of a kind. It is unique in the state of Washington,” district Superintendent Denny Waters said. “It stands alone in providing students with a living classroom for everyone who comes to CASEE. This is truly an exceptional opportunity and experience. We know that students engage and learn more when they are excited about the content and the topics for students who are passionate about science, agriculture, conservation and our environment.”
In the learning center’s 30-year history, an estimated 2,890 students have learned at the 83-acre classroom. An estimated 60,000 to 70,000 elementary students have visited during field trips to the CASEE Center, as well.
The CASEE Center impacts the public, as well. The campus houses many student-maintained trails that are open to the public as a way to get into nature as well as catch a glimpse of the opportunities that CASEE provides students.
The CASEE Center is located at 11104 NE 149th St. in Brush Prairie.
A panel discussion brought together Tim Hicks and Mark Watrin, two CASEE founders, along with Richard Hogg, former CASEE instructor, Chelsey Pacanins, former CASEE student and current CASEE instructor, Marisa Griffins and Trever Green, former students, on Saturday.
Green now uses his education from CASEE in his current career as a stormwater operations and maintenance technician for the City of Portland. He provided advice for current and upcoming students.
“My advice is really focus on what your passion is and try to broaden your horizons. I know that’s a can[ned] phrase, but it’s so true that the advice is try as much as you can,” Green said. “Don’t think anything is beyond you … There’s a lot of work in the natural resources that you may think is above you in your skills and your academics, but you’ll surprise yourself with how much CASEE equips you for the world out there and the amazing places you can be.”
Watrin shared his thoughts on the future of CASEE.
“I think the original vision is going to endure ,and the world is going to change around kids, but the skills that they learn here and the relationships that they build are going to carry through,” Watrin said. “When Tim [Hicks] and I started, the keyword was organic, and organic farming was worth $7 million. Now it’s worth $7 billion, and so I think the things that go on here are just going to kind of endure over the next 30 years and we adapt and adopt the new technologies that come along.”