By Kelsey Musick
The Duke Energy Foundation granted the Zion Nature Center $4,887 in May to support hands-on, science-focused initiatives, which led to the creation of the Traveling Teacher Trunks project.
Trunks are available for a $10 rental fee. They contain natural artifacts, materials and resources that allow area teachers to expand their school’s science curriculum.
According to Zionsville Parks and Recreation Park Naturalist and Zion Nature Center Manager Mindy Murdock, the project came about as part of the update to school program curriculum for preschool through eighth grade. The Zion Nature Center wanted to align with the updated curriculum and the new Indiana Science Standards.
“I’ve been brainstorming ways the Zion Nature Center can reach out to the larger Boone County community,” Murdock said. “Currently, the center is the only environmental education facility located in Boone County, and (I am the) only one full-time educator on staff who provides all public, group and school programming.”
Because of funding and time constraints, Murdock is not able to travel to schools and other educational centers outside of Zionsville’s municipal boundaries. Additionally, she found that many of the surrounding school systems have limited resources for transportation.
“The Zion Nature Center is currently located on Eagle Elementary School grounds in a small house,” Murdock said. “The size and location of the current center poses its own challenges for providing programs to larger groups.”
The Traveling Teacher Trunks help solve those problems.
“These trunks can travel around Boone County and to the surrounding communities, and space isn’t an issue as we’ve adapted all activities to be able to accommodate up to 30 students,” Murdock said.
The Zionsville Parks and Recreation Dept. is continually looking for ways to improve the community.
“Our parks board just completed their five-year master plan that includes a new nature center,” Murdock said. “That facility, which is in the design phase, will help alleviate the problem of space and accessibility for all in our community. The plan also includes working to complete the Big-4 Rail Trail through Zionsville.”