“Kids need nature and nature needs kids.” This is a motto of the Dunes Learning Center, an environmental education center that partners with schools and other groups throughout Northwest Indiana in an effort to get kids involved in their local natural areas.


One of the most recent projects that Dunes Learning Center has been a part of is the Carrie Gosch Learning Garden at Carrie Gosch Elementary School in East Chicago.


The garden is the final product of a year-long project on which 56 Carrie Gosch sixth-grade students involved in the Dunes Learning Center program called Earth Force have worked. Earth Force teaches elementary-aged students about the impact that they have on the natural world through fun, hands-on projects and field trips.


The learning garden, which is one of these projects, not only helps the students learn about nature, but has served as a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) education tool. The Gosch students did research about different types of plants and how to grow them, made predictions about growth, planted the garden, measured plant growth against their predictions and decorated their garden area with art projects created from recycled materials.


The garden contains much more than just plants. There is a Monarch waystation for the butterflies to stop at on their annual migration, a bat house, a native plant garden, a compost bin, a rain barrel, a digital weather station and a vegetable garden. The sixth-graders even decided that they would donate all of the vegetables and herbs they grow to community members in need.


Gosch teachers and students created a schedule so that everyone can be involved in caring for the garden over the summer break from school. It is the hope of those at Gosch that the garden will continue to grow each year and serve as a great, hands-on learning experience for all Gosch students.


The garden was unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 24. Several students, teachers, parents, sponsors and community members were in attendance.


In addition to Dunes Learning Center and School City of East Chicago, organizations like the Foundations of East Chicago and ArcelorMittal contributed to the project through grants and other forms of sponsorship.


For more information on the Dunes Learning Center and its programs, visit foundationsec.org.


Carrie Gosch Learning Garden