6,000 Valparaiso Students Become Landowners
The Nature Conservancy offers all K-12 students in Indiana the opportunity to claim ceremonial deed to unique places in the Children of Indiana Nature Park
Valparaiso, Indiana | May 12, 2017
When students at Valparaiso Community Schools were told last week they were getting a gift, they didn’t know it would turn them into landowners.
As part of Indiana’s Bicentennial Celebration, every K-12 student in the state can receive a ceremonial deed for an individual piece of land in the Children of Indiana Nature Park. All they need to do is visit www.ilovemyland.org, a website run by The Nature Conservancy.
“At first, I was kind of scared when they said I own some land. I never did that before,” said Austen MacKenzie, 10, a fourth-grader at Thomas Jefferson Elementary. “Now I think it’s fun to get the chance to own land.”
Valparaiso Superintendent Dr. Rick Frataccia learned about the Park last year and wanted to make sure all his district’s students received a deed. Since the Park opened last July, about 9,000 deeds have been claimed.
“The possibility for each of my 6,200 students to know that they owned a piece of Indiana which they received during Indiana’s Bicentennial year was paramount,” Dr. Frataccia said. “Clearly, learning to live with nature as opposed to overwhelming nature will significantly, in my opinion, be of greater benefit for the generations which follow my generation. Clean air, clean water and clean landscape are blessings of nature that future generations deserve and that our current generation owes to the future.”
Each K-12 student in Indiana can claim a personal “Nature IN-Deed,” with a geographic coordinate to a unique spot in the Children of Indiana Nature Park in Centerville, about 70 miles east of Indianapolis, near Richmond. Children can download their deed and visit their land virtually on the website www.ilovemyland.org. The Children of Indiana Nature Park was created by a partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Cope Environmental Center, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Education.
“Studies show that kids need nature,” said Melissa Moran of The Nature Conservancy, who spoke at school assemblies in Valparaiso last week. “Children who spend time in nature outdoors are more creative, healthier, more confident and better problem solvers. The Children of Indiana Nature Park can serve as a springboard, inviting kids to reconnect to nature.”
Children unable to visit the Park in person can still enjoy nature near them. The Bicentennial Nature Center Network, a network of 20 nature centers around Indiana, offers children and families opportunities to learn more about nature in their local communities. Every Hoosier child lives within an hour’s drive from a participating nature center.
In northwest Indiana, the Shirley Heinze Land Trust has nature preserves in Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph Counties. The land trust also offers guided hikes and volunteer workdays for groups.
“We are blessed in northwest Indiana to have nature areas for our kids to visit and learn to appreciate,” Dr. Frataccia said. “We have the lakeshore and natural geologic formations from the glacial age such as drumlin, terminal moraines as well as significant areas of wetlands. By owning a piece of Indiana, it is my hope that our kids will manifest greater oversight and care of nature than has been typically manifested.
Students agreed and cheered at the news.
“It’s an amazing idea,” said Angela Coulopoulos, 11, a fifth-grader at Cooks Corners Elementary. “I like nature and I want to take care of it. Maybe this will help so people will take care of it more.”
For more information about the Children of Indiana Nature Park or to help a student claim an IN-Deed, visit ilovemyland.org.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.