Nature center to establish curriculum

The Zion Nature Center can offer curriculum in the center, at Zionsville parks or in schools. (Photo by Anna Skinner).

The Zion Nature Center can offer curriculum in the center, at Zionsville parks or in schools. (Photo by Anna Skinner).

By Anna Skinner

A new move to help all kids get out and enjoy nature has started.

The Bicentennial Nature Network is establishing a Bicentennial Children’s Park that will put a piece of property together in Indianapolis near Richmond, Ind. and will create a type of ceremonial deed for a school-aged child to “own” a piece of the land and then learn more about science and nature through their schools.

With the new park, there is an educational component including a curriculum based on land conservation and nature. Teachers can teach this curriculum with the student’s own land that they received from the Bicentennial Children’s Park

Nature centers around Indiana are sharing this project so teachers can have their students go online and get the ceremonial deed, for free, so they can begin a lesson about conservation or science programming. The deed can show a map of the GPS location of the park. Although the curriculum does not require the deed, the deed makes the lesson more fun, as the child will have part of the park that is their own.

“(The Bicentennial Children’s Park) realizes not every kid in Indiana is able to get out there, so the Nature Center Network was started as a way to offer the same amount of environmental education to kids throughout Indiana,” Mindy Murdock, park naturalist and manager of the Zion Nature Center, said. “So if you don’t think you can ever make it (to the park) because of the distance or financial issues … this way they are making it so there is a nature center within 50 miles of every student that is going to offer the same type of programming and curriculum.”

There are currently 16 nature centers throughout state working on the curriculum to be ready for use by next year. A meeting is scheduled for September to go over the curriculum and finalize everything before 2016.

Bicentennial is formally announcing everything with the deeds and park around October, and it will all be available for schools in 2016.

“The curriculum is definitely going to be through the schools. So the teachers can have a list of nature centers offering the same things offered through Bicentennial Nature Network, and do the exact same curriculum without having to go over to Richmond. We can do it in the Zionsville parks or at the nature center, or we can do it at their school,” Murdock said.

The curriculum runs for grades K-12.

“I think it’s important just from working with the Zionsville teachers that I have, because they’re always looking for unique ways to get their students interested in science with unique curriculum,” Murdock said. “This offers a bigger picture. The way we look at it, it is just our starting point. It’s the first project (the Zion Nature Center) is doing, but we want (teachers) to realize that we have this great environmental education we can offer that can be done in the nature center or in schools.”

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