“I wanted to make something meaningful, and this has a lot of meaning to me.”

Our campers had spent the morning hiking and exploring the diverse ecosystems of Indiana Dunes State Park and were now nearly 2-hours into their “Arts In The Parks,” funded ecosystem mandala workshop, led by artist, teacher, and self-described arts activist, Bonnie Zimmer.

Nearly all of Bonnie’s work is created with natural and found materials “harvested” from the fields, woods and roadsides near her rural home. “By limiting myself to local objects and materials to which I have a deep connection, I’ve discovered my ideal media for exploring my sense of place and finding meaning,” says Zimmer.

That sense of place and meaning is exactly what she is currently imparting to these eager young artists.

The workshop began with a discussion about the wide variety of plants and animals found in the dunes.

“The diversity of the dunes is just mind boggling, isn’t it?” prompts Zimmer. “You’re in a desert. You’re in a forest. You’re beside a pond. You’re at a beach, with waves crashing… how lucky are we to have this?”

Her enthusiasm is infectious. Soon campers are eagerly perusing a 25-foot long “art material buffet,” looking for inspiration. While few elected to let the mandala format confine their thinking, all were deeply engaged as they reflected upon their new knowledge, recent experiences, and growing connection to the Park. Learn more about Dunes Learning Center summer camps at duneslearningcenter.org/summer.

Mighty Acorns Nature Camp is made possible through funding to the Northwest Indiana Mighty Acorns Partnership by ArcelorMittal, with additional support from BP, Dr. Scholl Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the IDNR Coastal Management Program, and contributions from parents and individuals. Arts activities made possible with support by the Indiana Arts Commission and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.