Children of Indiana Nature Park

Children of Indiana Nature ParkCope Environmental Center believes that re-establishing a connection to nature is vital to the health and well-being of children, their families, and their communities. We are committed to building the next generation of conservation leaders who will protect lands and water for people and nature. To accomplish this goal, we are collaborating with The Nature Conservancy, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Department of Education and other partners to create the Children of Indiana Nature Park: A Celebration of the Hoosier Bicentennial as a signature project of the state’s bicentennial.

What makes this park unique is that K-12 children from all over Indiana will be able to be part of Hoosier history and claim a bicentennial ceremonial deed of trust for a parcel of land.  Through schools, libraries, or other community outlets, students will be able to obtain a deed that is unique to them.  If a student is unable to physically visit the park, they can utilize a website being created by the Conservancy that will allow a child to zoom in and see his or her parcel virtually.

Using technology as the bridge to connect electronics-versus-outdoor activities divide, The Nature Conservancy will encourage every Hoosier student to get outside and find the gift of nature that has been given to them.  The project website will offer activities and online experiences focused on helping Hoosiers learn from, engage with, and be inspired by the state’s natural beauty.  Hands-on activities, such as hikes, gardening, exploring, tree planting, and outdoor study, will be led and facilitated by the staff of Cope Environmental Center- located next to the Park’s grounds. Similar hands-on activities can be experienced throughout the state via nature centers that are part of the Bicentennial Nature Center Network.

Below: View a TEDx Talk about a revolutionary idea of giving land away to kids!

In the 1970s, the Earth Day movement inspired a generation to clean up pollution and protect threatened species and landscapes. Can we reboot the environmental movement by reimagining how we care about our fragile natural lands and waters? Is it possible to inspire youth to create the next big environmental movement by harnessing technology and putting the future of conservation directly in the hands of kids? Mary McConnell, director for The Nature Conservancy’s Indiana Chapter, unveils her simple idea to transform how we protect the environment: deeding each child in Indiana a parcel of land in the unique Children’s Nature Park and utilizing their love of all things digital to inspire a lifetime of engagement with our natural world.

About Mary:
Mary is the State Director for the Indiana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, which has protected over 85,000 acres of land in Indiana. One of the highlights of her 23 years of work at the Conservancy has been spearheading the creation of the Bicentennial Nature Trust, a $30 million public/private partnership to purchase land for nature parks and trails to commemorate Indiana’s 200th birthday in 2016. She also oversaw the design and construction of the Conservancy’s LEED Platinum headquarters in Indianapolis.

Mary sits on the Bicentennial Commission, the Indiana Land Resources Council, and the Indiana Heritage Trust Project Committee.  (Sources, Tedx Indianapolis, The Nature Conservancy).