Get to Know Us

World Class Facilities

Designed to provide your camper a safe and memorable experience.

Staff and Counselors

Educated and trained in their field of expertise.

Inclusive

Your camper is welcome regardless of race, color, gender, national origin, sex, or disability.

Memorable

Your camper will have an experience of a lifetime and next summer is going to get even better.

Health and Safety

Our Counselors

All cabin counselors are current university students with a background working with children. Applicants go through a rigorous hiring process including multiple interviews, a background check, and drug testing. Many cabin counselors were even campers themselves!

Counselors go through a rigorous 8-day training program prior to any campers arriving at camp. They are trained in team-building, group-leading, child development, safety, and being sensitive to individual campers needs and life experiences. Counselors complete training with the tools and knowledge to support campers through common camp challenges such as homesickness, trying new things, and friendship building.

our counselors

Our Instructors

AstroCamp takes pride in hiring the highest quality staff. All of the AstroCamp instructors are required to have at least a Bachelors Degree in Physics or Astronomy, and it is not uncommon for our instructors to have a Masters Degree or PhD.

Our instructors come to AstroCamp from all over the United States and occasionally from overseas. Safety is one of our primary goals therefore all instructors are required to have 1st aid, CPR-PR, and Waterfront Lifeguard certifications as well as comprehensive on-site training.

Our History

Established in 1979, Guided Discoveries was the natural outgrowth of Ross and Kristi Turner’s experience as schoolteachers taking students on science-related field trips. During these excursions, they began to realize the power of a fun and immersive science-based program. In 1976, Ross and Kristi took the leap and moved their young family to Catalina Island, California to run Camp Cherry Valley for the Boy Scouts. By 1978, Ross and Kristi, along with long-time friends Steve Garrett (Board Chairperson) and Jerry Tambe incorporated Guided Discoveries Inc. as a 501(c)(3) non-profit leading what would later become Catalina Island Marine Institute or CIMI (pronounced ‘see-me’).  Then in 1979, we began our first summer camp program Catalina Sea Camp.

As CIMI and Sea Camp programs continued to prosper, Guided Discoveries began to consider expansion and conducted its first AstroCamp pilot program in 1988. Using the same hands-on educational philosophy as the CIMI program, AstroCamp focused on astronomy and the physical sciences rather than the ocean. After spending 1989 at Camp Blue Jay and 1990 in Las Vegas, AstroCamp found its permanent home in Idyllwild, California, on the site of another former boarding school in 1991. This was also the inaugural year of the AstroCamp Summer Camp program.

The Guided Discoveries’ vision continues to expand as it considers other exciting opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of children.

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Meet Our Directors:

Ross Turner

President & CEO of Guided Discoveries Inc.

``Kristi and I are passionate about the our programs and we know that these camp experiences make a positive difference in their lives of the campers, families, and staff. We have dedicated ourselves to developing and operating these programs and still enjoy visiting and living at our camps. We see the rewards of our efforts in the faces and laughter of the children every day. We are pleased so many people have been touched by our programs (more than 1.5 million) and we are very proud of our former staff and the impact they are making in their communities as teachers, professors, researchers, aquarium and science center professionals, lawyers, physicians, business leaders, actors, and as parents.``

As an educational entrepreneur, Ross is dedicated to creating unique and fun educational programs for children. Ross is the Co-founder, President and CEO for Guided Discoveries and its family of programs.
A graduate of Brigham Young University, Ross taught high school biology and coached football. It was his experience as a teacher and coach that led to the idea Guided Discoveries. In 1976 he and his wife, Kristi, and a small group of friends, founded Guided Discoveries.
Ross is a well respected national leader in the camp professional community. He is the past president of the Western Association of Independent Camps and the current Board Chair of the National Board of Directors of the American Camp Association.

Together, Ross and Kristi have worked tirelessly for the development and operation of the organization they founded and the children they have served.

Andy Balendy

Director AstroCamp

“AstroCamp has an incredible way of creating environments that are empowering for all. For our students, teachers, staff, and even executives, there are always opportunities for growth and experiences that profoundly affect and change our lives.”

Andy began working at Guided Discoveries in 1998 as a Marine Science Instructor at Fourth of July Cove on Catalina Island. Since then he has held numerous positions within the organization including, Head Aquarist, Assistant Program Director, Director of Educational Outreach, SeaCamp Expeditions Diving Director in Belize, and served as the Program Director of all three CIMI programs.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Ecology and minor in Marine Science from Pennsylvania State University. In addition, Andy has a Master’s Degree in Marine Biology.

Charlie Bueche

Program Director

“I spend my days working with people who are passionate about hanging out with kids. I live a stone’s throw away from the sea, and most importantly, I get to share my love of the ocean with my staff and watch them share theirs with the kids. All of my best memories from the last five years have been connected to working with kids in some way. Whether it was taking kids snorkeling, watching them kiss a sea cucumber, or going on adventures with staff, all of them have been wonderful.”

Charles Bueche joined Guided Discoveries in 2009 and has served as a Marine Science Instructor and Aquarist, Assistant Program Director of Logistics, Summer Camp Director for Camp Fox YMCA Programs and Program Director at Cherry Cove and Fox Landing.
He is responsible for the safety of all students and teachers, and is charged with the hiring, training and managing the staff.

Charles worked at the Biological Field Station in Cooperstown, N.Y., during college. With a bachelor’s degree in biology from SUNY Geneseo, Charles applied for a job at CIMI with the plan to stay for two years, but, he says, little did he know about the magical draw of the island.

Charles also is a NAUI-certified rescue diver and Red Cross Lifeguard instructor.
Andy began working at Guided Discoveries in 1998 as a Marine Science Instructor at Fourth of July Cove on Catalina Island. Since then he has held numerous positions within the organization including, Head Aquarist, Assistant Program Director, Director of Educational Outreach, SeaCamp Expeditions Diving Director in Belize, and served as the Program Director of all three CIMI programs.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Ecology and minor in Marine Science from Pennsylvania State University. In addition, Andy has a Master’s Degree in Marine Biology.

John Swanwick

Summer Camp Director

``I am proud of all the summers I have spent working for camp. I was able to be a part of the positive experience summer camp can have on young people, helping guide them as they grew from quiet and shy young children into confident, intelligent and passionate young adults. Seeing the influence that summer camp can have on campers and staff alike, helps drive my passion for this industry”.

John’s career with Guided Discoveries started as a camper in 2004, at Catalina Sea Camp. He then joined as staff in 2008 as a Cabin Counselor. After 4 summers he was promoted to a Crew Chief and again in 2015 to Head Counselor. Now in his role as Summer Camp Director he is excited to bring his passion for summer camp to Virginia.

Though John grew-up in landlocked Nottingham, England, he is an avid scuba diver. He has always had an interest in space getting his first telescope at age 12. John enjoys following current space exploration missions and future colonization projects.

John got his Bachelors Degree in Management from Southampton Solent University. In his free time, he enjoys being outdoors; hiking, traveling, and taking part in Obstacle Course Races.