The state of Indiana has given a gift to all Hoosier students. But this isn’t a gift that can be unwrapped: Instead, it’s a gift that must be protected. In 2016, Indiana created The Children of Indiana Nature Park, in honor of every student in the state. Students in grades K through 12 can claim a piece of this park in the form of a deed, which invites each student to care for their very own piece of land in the park.
Each deed to the park — called a Nature IN-Deed — has unique geographic coordinates. Students can visit the Children of Indiana Nature Park website (ilovemyland.org) to download their own deed, and then explore the website to learn about nature before heading outdoors to explore. By becoming a little landowner, each Hoosier child is encouraged to reconnect to nature and learn to care for their land.
“Learning about their land starts with knowing where it is located, what grows on it and what lives on it,” says Melissa Moran, director of community programs at The Nature Conservancy, the non-profit organization behind the Nature IN-Deed program. “Whether students can visit their land in person, zoom in on their spot via the Children of Indiana Nature Park website, or simply enjoy nature in a local park or greenspace, over time, they can see the land in different seasons and from year to year.”
Instead of swings and slides, the Children of Indiana Nature Park has trees, walking trails, birds, insects and lots of nature to explore. Kids can get close to their spot using the GPS coordinates on their Nature IN-Deed, and learn whether their plot is near a path, in the forest or in the hay pasture, which was recently planted with tree saplings.
Located at Cope Environmental Center in Centerville, Indiana, visitors to the Children of Indiana Nature Park can see the 3,000 trees that kids helped plant in 2018 and watch them grow each year. There is also a “Hall of Trees” that invites kids to run full speed through the forest, and informational signage about nature, native plants, invasive plants and ways to explore the park.
The Nature Conservancy hopes that by giving kids “ownership” of a piece of land in a park created just for them, it will inspire kids to connect to nature. “We want to teach students that when we take care of the land, we are also taking care of the plants and animals that are living on the land,” Moran says. “Kids grow up knowing the importance of caring for nature, and they use this knowledge throughout their lives.”
To find out more about the Nature IN-Deed program and to claim your own deed, visit ilovemyland.org