“That’s a big one!”
It was hard to tell who was more excited as father and son admired the contents of their dip net—a 2 inch crayfish. The small group of parents and kids gathered on the bank of the Little Calumet River glanced over appreciatively.
It’s National Get Outdoors Day at Dunes Learning Center, and almost 700 people have registered for an afternoon of free activities in nature. On this nearly 90 degree day, several have opted to spend time cooling their feet in the slowly moving water while searching for clues to the health of the waterway.
A Dunes Learning Center naturalist peers critically at the squirming critter. “It looks like he’s missing a claw. What do you think might have happened?” she asks. Speculation ensues.
This is what the experts call “experiential environmental education,” or “field-based learning,” but the kids here today just think it’s fun. Options ranged from nature themed crafts, games, and hikes to climbing a tree using ropes and ascenders, assisted by professional arborists from event partner, Davey Tree Service.
“People don’t spend as much time outside as they once did,” says Sandi Weindling, Dunes Learning Center Director of Marketing & Communications. “I think they actually just forget how great it feels to be immersed in nature. Get Outdoors Day is a reminder and opportunity to reconnect with our environment—not to mention our inner child.”
Now in it’s 5th year, Dunes Learning Center’s Get Outdoors Day celebration is one of just 3 public open house events at their Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore campus each year. The residential facility hosts year-round multi-day education programs, including popular summer camps which will start next week. A number of families arrived at the event with potential campers in tow. “Wow,” was the word from one parent, noting a cabin’s air-conditioning and bathroom. “This is nothing like the camp I went to!”
Guests, young and old, seemed delighted to be campers together. In a busy world, a day set aside to get outdoors, may be just what is needed. Dunes Learning Center’s National Get Outdoors Day open house is held on the second Saturday in June each year. To learn more about upcoming programs and events visit www.duneslearningcenter.org.