PORTER | Even though the outdoors was in a state of thaw on Saturday afternoon, families still enjoyed what snow was left to participate in many outdoor, as well as indoor, activities during the second annual Winter Open House at the Dunes Learning Center.
One of those activities, making snowshoes out of branches from oriental bittersweet, an invasive species, was a little trickier than meets the eye, said Ryan Hanley, 8, of Griffith.
“It was hard. It took a long time. We took a frame and put sticks across it and tied sticks to the bottom and weaved other sticks through,” said Hanley whose mother, Traci Hanley, helped to place his feet in his new creation.
Other activities included starting a fire from a flint stick and kindling, making penny whistles, constructing bird feeders, making recycled paper with seeds for planting, and arts and crafts.
Some 150 people had preregistered for the free event, said Sandi Weindling, marketing and development director at the Dunes Learning Center, but by the looks of the crowd and the parking lot, the numbers may have been even greater.
“We just want people to be aware that we’re here and know what we do, which is residential and experiential education,” said Geoff Benson, Dunes Learning Center executive director.
“We have been here for 15 years but we typically are open to schools and other groups so we want to have the public come and see what we’re all about,” he said.
For Bridget Cletcher, of Valparaiso, knowing what the Dunes Learning Center had to offer was nothing new, especially since the grounds were once home to her childhood summers.
“I came here with my brothers every summer when this was the Good Fellow Camp. My husband and I decided to bring our grand kids here today so they can see it here. I’m glad they’re utilizing this beautiful place and it’s great that so many families get to enjoy it. This way we can continue it on with the next generation,” Cletcher said.
Getting the next generation to see the value in such beauty and activities can be a struggle, but with a little prod the payoff can be great.
Jenni Albright, of Hammond, said, “My kids didn’t want to come here today at first. They just wanted to stay inside and play video games. I told them for every activity they don’t do I would take away their iPods for a day. Now they’re having a lot of fun!”