While Northwest Indiana is an extremely environmentally diverse area, there are still many kids living in the region who have never experienced the dunes or lakeshore. Several local organizations have collaborated to change that.
The Comprehensive Environmental Education program is the work of agencies like Dunes Learning Center, ArcelorMittal Global Research Facility, School City of East Chicago, Shirley Heinze Land Trust and the Chicago Field Museum, with funding from the Foundations of East Chicago, to bring outdoor education to students in East Chicago, Ind. This is accomplished by integrating experiential education into the school day in the form of trips, projects and lessons.
The program, which was brought to East Chicago in 2014, consists of three types of curricula crafted for students of all ages. Mighty Acorns is the portion of the program geared toward the third through fifth grade students at several elementary schools in East Chicago. With Mighty Acorns, students adopt a natural site to take care of and study over their years in the program. They get to see, first hand, the impact of their actions on their environment.
Earth Force is the next stage of the Comprehensive Environmental Education collaboration. In this phase, students in grades six through eight, work together to devise and implement a solution to an environmental problem that they have identified in their community. This part of the program has a heavy focus on the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) and teamwork.
The final stage in the program is Calumet Is My Backyard, or CIMBY. CIMBY is for high school students in East Chicago with a special interest in STEM fields. The students take several trips throughout the year where they do restorative work in natural areas. CIMBY also connects these students to internship or other career/college preparation opportunities.
According to collaborators, the Comprehensive Environmental Education program takes students from third grade through their high school graduation and gives them exposure to and experience with nature and related subjects. This experience helps the students to understand the options available to them after graduation and helps them to become more informed and productive citizens.
For more information on the program, visit foundationsec.org.