CASA Camp Reflections

by Karen Anderson

Education Assistant Meredith Brockriede, CASA Campers, Education Summer Intern Cameron Day and Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara (HACSB) staff Angel Velasquez in front of El Cuartel. El Cuartel is part of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, and is the second oldest building standing in California. Photo by Karen Schultz Anderson.

July is always a busy month from the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation Education Department’s point of view.  This July was no exception.  One of our big events was CASA camp, a day camp run in conjunction with the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara. “CASA” stands for “Cultural Activities and Summer Adventures.”  It is our goal to present nine days of “fun in the sun,” days where children, aged 5-15, don’t even think about how much they are learning about the Santa Barbara area and its history.  As in the past years, we have activities at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, Casa de la Guerra, Santa Inés Mission Mills, La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, Refugio State Beach, UCSB’s REEF, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, and the Chumash Museum in Thousand Oaks.   Each place is rich in history, and we devise activities that promote learning.  Summer intern Cameron Day, a student at Westmont College, helped out on every day of camp.  Kids loved interacting with him, and it looks like the feeling was mutual!  Below is part of a reflective essay that Cameron wrote about his time with the children of CASA camp:

Casa Campers learn to excavate, sift soil and sort artifacts with SBTHP Archaeologist Michael Imwalle (back row middle), with Housing Authority staff Marcus Lopez and Karen Anderson to Mike’s right, and weekend interpreter and archaeology volunteer Josh Figueroa to Mike’s left. Photo by Meredith Brockriede.

In retrospect, the people who had the greatest impact on me [this summer] were all involved in one event: the CASA day camps…. Through this program, the children were able to experience for themselves, as Santa Barbara locals, their own history. More importantly, however, I was personally able to witness the compassion and curiosity of a new generation.

There was one young boy in particular who I believe to exemplify this transition from respect to compassion and curiosity – Michael. Michael was one of the smallest and youngest children at the camp; he is only six years old. I immediately noticed Michael as being one of the most energetic children…. Michael had a kindness and intelligence that I had previously thought to be uncharacteristic of his age. From the beginning, I noticed his enthusiasm and inquisitiveness…. I watched older children keep Michael focused and involved in activities. I looked on as he joked and played with [Housing Authority staff] Angel and Marcus. Most importantly, however, I witnessed Michael’s compassion and curiosity when he would hold my hand, walk with me, ask me to carry him when he was tired, or ask me questions when there was a topic he didn’t understand.…

HACSB staff Angel Velasquez and Marcus Lopez pose with CASA campers in front of the Presidio Visitor’s Center on their last day of camp. Also pictured: SBTHP staff Meredith Brockriede and Amanda Gonzalez, and Education Intern Cameron Day. Photo by Karen Schultz Anderson.

Through my interaction with Michael, and more broadly through my involvement with the whole CASA camp, I witnessed many characteristics that I believe to be crucial aspects of our lives as students and people. I saw a respect for history and humanity, I saw a curiosity in learning, and I saw a deep compassion in the social actions of the children. I cannot say for certain what each individual child took from these day camps, but I only hope that they were as affected and moved as I.

Karen Anderson is the  Director of Education at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. 

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