VALPARAISO – The Porter County Museum, which for 101 years has preserved the past, opened its doors and grounds Saturday to protecting the future.
From seed balls to scorpions, the second annual Earth Day celebration engaged museum visitors in activities designed to develop a deeper appreciation of Northwest Indiana’s ecosystems.
World Earth Day is Saturday.
“As a museum, we think a lot about the preservation of history,” said Megan Telligman, museum coordinator. “Through Earth Day, we can combine the preservation and conservation of natural resources.”
Partnering with the Porter County chapter of the Izaak Walton League and other groups, the museum hosted exhibits and activity stations dealing with crafts, 4-H, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and animal conservation groups.
Joe Arnold, an Izaak Walton volunteer, helped children make bluebird houses to take home. “The idea for doing this,” Arnold said, “is that we’d like to see these houses put up.”
Walt Breitinger, from Valparaiso Chain of Lakes, involved kids in learning how different locales – homes, factories, construction sites, and golf courses – can pollute waterways.
“Each [locale] contributes to a pollution,” Breitinger told a family, “and we want to make people aware of them.”
Bonnie Swarner, education chairman for the local Izaak Walton League, supervised the seed ball exhibit, where children mixed clay, potting soil, and different seeds to plant at home.
“We want to give people general education and get kids to go outside,” said Swarner, adding that the league has been holding education programs in local schools for five years.
Valparaiso resident Shannon Worthington, who watched her son Dean, 4, complete a seed ball, noted, “There’s so much here to have fun on Earth Day. It’s a great thing for the community and it brings people to the museum.”
Jim Sweeney, president of the Izaak Walton League in Porter County, educated visitors on the different insects found in clean and unclean water.
This public education, Sweeney explained, is “part of a national effort to turn more people into citizen scientists. We want people to go to their local creeks and streams and monitor water quality.”
Rachel Gallup, 11, and Elliott McEvoy, 9, worked the 4-H booth on bees and visited other exhibits. Petting a chinchilla, Gallup said, was “really fun. The chinchilla is really soft.”
McEvoy added, “I learned a lot today and I’m teaching stuff.”