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CASEE program celebrates 30th anniversary

The Columbian
Published: October 14, 2023, 5:57am

BRUSH PRAIRIE — The seeds of the Center for Agriculture, Science and Environmental Education — better known as CASEE — were planted back during the 1984-85 school year when Battle Ground High School teachers Mark Watrin and Tim Hicks were working to revise the school’s agricultural curriculum. It would take nearly another decade before the first classes were held on the CASEE campus, an 80-acre outdoor learning lab in Brush Prairie.

“I am so impressed with how CASEE has continued to evolve and adopt new technologies and partnerships over the years,” said Watrin, now a retired teacher and vice president of the Battle Ground Public Schools Board of Directors.

To celebrate the program’s 30th anniversary, CASEE and Battle Ground Public Schools held a public event on Sept. 30 at the CASEE campus. Visitors were able to attend a Q&A session to hear from former students and teachers, take a tour of the campus led by current students, view student projects and enjoy refreshments.

High school students attending CASEE spend a half-day on the program’s campus, studying a science-based curriculum immersed in biology, forestry/wildlife, agroecology and other topics, as well as English. They attend their neighborhood high school for a half-day to round out their studies.

“It is gratifying to see CASEE students still learning enduring skills like leadership, community service and how to work as a team when solving problems,” Watrin said. “I’m excited to continue rebuilding our partnership with the state Department of Natural Resources and welcoming more field trips so middle and elementary school students in the district can continue to use CASEE as a learning resource.”

CASEE has been hailed as a guiding light among Washington’s science, technology, engineering and math programs and has been awarded grants to mentor other schools developing similar programs. It has been recognized as a STEM Lighthouse school, one of the first to receive such a distinction in Southwest Washington.