Using Indiana Dunes as a Classroom

Dunes Learning Center Executive Director John Hayes talks about the partnership with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and its role in building the community around the park.

Video by David Braun

Much has been said by many people during the bioblitz about the importance to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore of the surrounding community, and how building that community is vital to the welfare and future of the park.


This is why the community component of the bioblitz, a 24-hour species count that ended at midday yesterday, is so important. Sime 2,000 school students assisted scientists locate and identify species and perhaps as many as another 3,000 other members of the public also joined in the fun.

An important partner of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, all year round, is the Dunes Learning Center, a charity that relies on the financial support of the community, especially the big industries adjacent to the park, to “offer classrooms of woodlands, native prairies, wetlands, dunes, and beaches for all to discover and share in the unique attributes” of Indiana Dunes.

The center offers formal instruction through a variety of programs designed to get students out of the traditional classroom and into nature. Learning programs address numerous curriculum standards in language arts, math, social studies, and science.

Students may stay overnight for several days at a time in cabins in the park. A central lodge and learning center provide a range of facilities for dining, meetings, and other communal activities.


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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn