Picture this: you’re a kid, it’s a sunny yet breezy summer afternoon—one that you wish would never end.
You’re hiking on trails, then make a mad dash through a corridor of pine trees.
You get to cross a trickling creek and wander through an old hay field that’s slowly returning to forest. When you’re done exploring you try to locate your very own piece of this amazing place.
Your spot? Yes – a piece of land that’s just for you, inside the Children of Indiana Nature Park.
The Children of Indiana Nature Park (Park) is nestled in eastern Indiana, spanning over 30 acres on the Cope Environmental Center property. A creek, a hay field and rows upon rows of pines are found here. The Park is the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors, then zoom in your spot using GPS coordinates that are yours only.
Where do these coordinates come from? They come from your “Nature IN-Deed,” a special gift from the State of Indiana. In celebration of Indiana’s 200th birthday, every child in Indiana was given the opportunity to own a piece of nature. Kids can download their Nature IN-Deeds at ilovemyland.org.
The State—and the other partners involved in the Park—want this Nature IN-Deed to be the stepping stone that will get all kids outside and start reaping the many benefits of nature.
Our society has seen a major shift in how children spend their free time.
Before screen time, extra-extracurricular activities, and jam-packed schedules kids grew up exploring their backyards and discovering outdoors during their exploration. Since the 1990s, time spent outside has since been replaced with technology and organized activities.
In fact, only about 10% of children spend time outside compared to 40% just a generation ago.
Parents and teachers can register their students for a deed to the Park by visiting www.ilovemyland.org. Each deed is unique to the individual that holds it; no two deeds are alike. Once registered, the student, parent, or teacher, can punch in their coordinates and find their spot, either virtually or during a visit to the Park. Children are encouraged to keep their deeds in a special place, so that they can pass down the ownership of their land to their children and grandchildren.
Kids connect best with nature when they play frequently and freely in a nature place near them, and for most children, those “near places” are home and school. As educators, providing opportunities for your students to explore the greenspace at your school or on field trips can help your students receive the benefits that nature provides, and further nurture kids’ desire to care for nature.
What ideas do you have for kindling a love for nature with the students at your school?
We’d love to hear them! Comment on this post or email us at ChildrenOfIndianaNaturePark@tnc.org.
Author: Mary McConnell, Director (retired), The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter
 Oxford Junior Dictionary’s replacement of ‘natural’ words with 21st-century terms sparks outcry. Flood, Alison. The Guardian. January 15, 2015.