HOBART — Not all Field Museum-sponsored programs take place inside the iconic natural history building in downtown Chicago.

On a recent chilly Monday morning, some 20 fifth-graders from Hobart's Joan Martin Elementary School got the chance to take part in a Field Museum program without traveling to the Windy City.

The students hiked, explored and even donned safety glasses and gloves to take part in cleanup of invasive plants at Gordon and Faith Greiner Preserve off Liverpool Road as part of a program called Mighty Acorns.

It's an environmental education program connecting students in grades 3-5 to multiple, meaningful and sustained interaction with their local ecosystems, Field's youth conservation action partnership coordinator Ylanda Wilhite said.

The program entailed in-class and post-class lessons related to what the students learned at the nature preserve with field trips held in fall, winter and spring.

There's also a Mighty Acorns nature camp held at the Dunes Learning Center during two sessions in the summer.

"The Field mission overall is to get future generations outside to connect with nature that's local within their community," Wilhite said.

Mighty Acorns of Northwest Indiana programs are implemented through the Field Museum working with the Dunes Learning Center and the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, Field's Youth Conservation Manager Alison Paul said.

"The program aims to help cultivate a love of nature in students while building their science content knowledge," Paul said.

Deeply embedded in NWI

Mighty Acorns is just one of several outreach programs sponsored by the Field Museum, according to both Mark Bouman, who serves as Field's Chicago region program director, and Field CEO and President Richard Lariviere.

Lariviere said most people living in the area don't have a clue of the range of the activities of the Field Museum throughout the Chicago/Calumet Region.

"We're deeply embedded in Northwest Indiana, and we have no plans to change that. I hope our impact continues to be strong," Lariviere said.

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In keeping with the environmental stewardship, the museum recently rebranded with a new logo: "Earth. We're on it," Lariviere said.

"The southern tip of Lake Michigan gave rise to the dunes and the whole typography that created a rich diversity that has been treated badly by homo sapien through the years. And now we're trying to work with those people who live in the area to make it come back as much as possible. In talking to colleagues, they are very impressed and moved by the response of people in Northwest Indiana and to their concerns for ecological restoration," Lariviere said.

The Calumet Region matters to the Field Museum, Mark Bouman said.

"The Shirley Heinz Land Trust property (in Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties) and the nature conservancy that borders the Grand Calumet River is why the Calumet Region is so important," Bouman said.

The inclusion of the Region is due to a couple of things, including the ecological side and the people side, Bouman said.

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Monarchs' reign

The Field Museum is partnering with Save the Dunes in its creation of a climate adaptation strategy for the Indiana Dunes.

There's a myriad of other outreach connections by the Field Museum, including project support for the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival, mapping of the great natural area of the Region and really detailed satellite mapping so the location of certain species can be determined, Bouman said.

"That leads to a very particular project which is urban monarch butterfly strategies. The monarch butterfly is in trouble and has been trending downward for 20 years," Bouman said.

Gary is one of the cities partnering with the Field Museum with a focus on cleanup of empty lots that can be used to attract the monarch butterflies.

"Monarchs depend on milkweed plants, and we're devising strategies," Bouman said.

The people side of the inclusion by the Field Museum includes such programs as the Mighty Acorns connecting kids to nature.

"Our journey of discovery is about the past and also what takes us into the future," Bouman said.

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