In a time when video games and the Internet are taking up more and more of kids’ attention, structured outdoor programs are necessary to keep them educated and connected to the natural world around them. The Dunes Learning Center in Chesterton provides programs that work to do just that.
Dunes Learning Center as we know it today, was launched in 1998. However, the beginning of formal outdoor education on the south shore of Lake Michigan dates back to 1941. At this time, a summer camp was set up on the grounds which Dunes Learning Center now occupies. This camp was meant for the children of the steel mill workers to enjoy the unique biodiversity of the south shore.
Over the years, the camp, which came to be known as Goodfellows Club of Gary Works Youth Camp, grew to include more amenities and activities. It was once said to be “one of the best equipped youth outing centers this side of the Adirondacks” by the Gary Post Tribune.
In 1966, Congress recognized Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as a national park. Ten years later, the National Park Service purchased the camp which sat on these grounds and made it part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
When Dunes Learning Center was formally launched in 1998, its flagship residential program which is still in existence today was called “Frog-in-the-Bog”. This program allows students in grades 4-6 to spend three days and two nights at the camp to learn about the history of the dunes, the relationship that humans have with the dunes and the biodiversity of the south shore.
Today, Dunes Learning Center includes many more programs for people of all ages and even works with local schools to coordinate field trips and service projects for the students. With everything that it offers, the center has become a premier outdoor education facility for all of Northwest Indiana.