posted June 4, 2009

CASA Summer Program to Focus on Water

It'll look like - and even be - fun in the sun, but there'll be a serious purpose behind the summer outings planned for the Children's After School Achievement (CASA) program at Hope College.

Throughout their six-week summer session, which begins Monday, June 15, CASA's elementary-age students will be learning about the significance of water, with particular emphasis on local environmental water issues.  Approximately 100 students will participate in the program, which recently received $3,300 in grant support from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area.

Titled "Save the Water," the session will include a mix of field trips and classroom activities and instruction.

Outdoor activities will include a trip aboard Grand Valley State University's "Annis" research boat, a visit to Dunton Park to take samples from Lake Macatawa, an opportunity to study wetlands and ponds at the Outdoor Discovery Center, a visit to the water supply plant north of town, and a day at the Smallenburg Park rain gardens.

Activities back on campus will include testing the water samples the students collected at Lake Macatawa, participation in Hope science camp programming related to water, and reading and responding to books related to the water theme.  Resource people will include Dr. Graham Peaslee of the Hope faculty and area high school teachers Carl Van Faasen and Jennifer Soukhome, whose research together led to the book "An Environmental History of The Lake Macatawa Watershed," written by Van Faasen and Soukhome and edited by Peaslee.

CASA, a community organization housed at Hope, provides academic and cultural enrichment for at-risk second- through fifth-grade students. The program, which runs year-round, is intended to improve the students' academic performance by providing the tools they need to succeed in school.

The students meet after school twice per week in one-on-one sessions with volunteer tutors, most of whom are Hope students, throughout the school year, and in the mornings during the six-week summer session.  The academic-year and summer programs serve Holland and West Ottawa students.  A total of 150 elementary-age students participated in CASA during the 2008-09 year.

CASA was established in 1987 by Marge Rivera Bermann and Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP) and originally housed at First United Methodist Church. CASA moved to Hope College in 1989, and has its offices and summer classes in Van Zoeren Hall and its school-year activities in classrooms in Lubbers Hall.