ADAMS: School of Environment Education continues its mission

May 25, 2021


About 60 miles northwest of downtown Houston among the soft rolling hills and forest of the Brazos Valley lies the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Camp Kappe Youth Retreat Facility — a somewhat hidden treasure located on 130 acres of beautiful forest, pastures, trails, ponds and a variety of wildlife.

Camp Kappe was founded in 1981 as a center exclusively for youth retreat programs and environmental education to give parishes and schools of Galveston-Houston their own complex rather than relying on facilities of other denominations or secular organizations. It later expanded its mission to include young adults.

Camp Kappe is also the home of the School of Environmental Education (S.E.E.), a fully accredited TCCB-ED school for fifth-grade Catholic school students from throughout the Archdiocese, as well as the Dioceses of Beaumont and Austin.

Supported by the Diocesan Service Fund, Camp Kappe’s mission is to provide a facility and school where youth can deepen their Catholic faith and foster spiritual, academic and personal growth in the formation of Catholic values and traditions rooted in Christ. It is because of this support that Camp Kappe is one of the most affordable centers providing a high-quality and unique Catholic camp experience for parishes and schools.

Although the weekend retreat programs have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, S.E.E., following approved COVID -19 protocols and procedures, reopened its doors in October 2020 on a much smaller scale for schools to return for environmental education. Each week, schools have been able to return to explore environmental areas including forest and field, farm and garden (with pigs, goats, sheep, chickens and peacocks), pond study, sustainability/biodegradability, entomology and adventure activities like archery and canoeing to name a few.

We are blessed to have incredible S.E.E. instructors and Camp Kappe support staff who have done such a fantastic job during this pandemic. Throughout last spring and summer, S.E.E. staff put together wonderful videos covering a wide range of topics in environmental education, as well as fun games, prayers and other activities highlighting the camp. The S.E.E. instructors wanted to share their thoughts on this unusual year.

S.E.E. Director Michael Richmond’s first trip to Kappe was as a high school youth and a member of the Archdiocesan Youth Council. After college, he began working as an instructor at the camp and now as director.

“During this year, S.E.E. at Camp Kappe has been able to safely and effectively host schools and the much anticipated fifth-grade field trip to Plantersville. Being able to make our students feel safe and watch them enjoy our program and the outdoors is a sense of normalcy that I believe they have been missing throughout this entire year. I can’t wait for next year as we continue our program and deliver this experience to our students.”

For S.E.E. Farm and Garden Instructor Nathaniel Wooten, his first experience was as a fifth-grade student from St. Francis de Sales School attending S.E.E.

“Coming to Camp Kappe as a fifth-grader, I experienced hands-on learning about the care of God’s creations. Learning our role as good stewards towards our environment has been a mission in my life, and I love passing on this enthusiasm to our students. Camp Kappe really brings the students together as a whole and creates bonds that are life-long.”

For Veronica Campos, S.E.E. instructor and our resident entomologist and pollen garden advocate, she took the time to summarize this school year’s experience.

“As the 2020-2021 school year comes to an end, it is extraordinary to see the growth that Camp Kappe has undertaken. The S.E.E. was able to adapt to the ever-changing regulations and continued to serve our students. In a school year full of online classes, distance learning and video presentations, Camp Kappe was able to offer a week of experiences. My students were able to run around and observe insects close up, not just view them through a video or a picture in a book. They picked up a bow and arrow and felt the excitement of landing their first bull’s eye. We’ve been able to help our students shed the burden of a very difficult year and experience the joys of being a child of God. Even though we know that the effects of this worldwide pandemic are far from over, we are also so blessed and grateful to be able to share in these moments of joy with our students and chaperones.”

Our newest instructor and Pond Study leader, Preston Norton, started the job in October, right after the first school come back to Camp.

​“Nothing has been easy about the 2020-2021 school year and the worldwide pandemic that has served as its defining characteristic. However, in these unprecedented times, the Camp Kappe School of Environmental Education has shown me the possibility of connection in times that feel nothing but divided — ​connection to nature, connection to God and connection to each other. Seeing these fifth graders interacting with the S.E.E program, I see the future, and it looks bright.”

This summer both the S.E.E. and Camp Kappe staffs will continue their hard work on a variety of projects and planning activities as they prepare for the opening of S.E.E. and weekend retreat programs this fall. For more information on S.E.E. and Camp Kappe, contact Randy Adams, executive director of the Camp Kappe Youth Facility at radams@archgh.org.

Randy Adams is the executive director of Camp Kappe Youth Retreat Facility and an associate director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.