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Chesterton students fall short of breaking field trip record

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PORTER — They needed 1,872 students to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest field trip in the world.

With that goal in mind, Chesterton High School students and teachers headed to the Indiana Dunes National Park Tuesday to explore and study 15,000 acres there. In the end, they enjoyed the outing, but missed the record by about 150 students.

Kim Swift, chief of education at the national park, said Chesterton High School made an unofficial first attempt at the record in 2016 for the 50th anniversary of the lakeshore and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Chesterton High School approached them again after the Dunes earned national park status.

"After doing it in 2016, teachers really liked it," Swift said, adding the idea behind this massive school field trip is to get students outdoors to learn from nature and to celebrate the fact that Indiana Dunes is now the 61st national park in the United States. 

This year, teachers created assignments for their students to work on during the field trip. One of the English classes was assigned to take video and write short stories during the day, based on other work they've been doing in school.

"Each teacher has really come up with interesting ways to incorporate park stories into their lessons," Swift said.

At the historic Chellberg Farm in Porter, students took hikes, visited with farm animals and listened to guest speakers on place-based history. The farm, part of the Dunes Learning Center, offers visitors a look back at the agricultural history of the Region. Park ranger Jean-Pierre Anderson led one of the groups, talking with the students about different vegetables grown on the farm in the late 1800s and leading them on a hike through the wooded part of the park.

More than 400 plus students explored Chellberg Farm and listened to Diane Hunter, tribal historic preservation officer for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, at one of the stops.

"I want to people to know ... we are a living people," Hunter said. "Too many times people will say 'there are no more Indians here in Indiana, they're extinct in Indiana.' No. We are not."

Hunter said Indian history isn't as well taught in schools as people hope and she enjoyed educating the students on "our shared history."

“We are very excited to partner with Indiana Dunes National Park to give our students a learning experience that goes beyond the traditional classroom setting," said Brent Martinson, Chesterton High School principal. "Our students and staff are excited to participate in this whole-school field trip and learn more about our unique area.”

To certify the world record attempt, the Duneland Chamber of Commerce organized teams of independent monitors to make sure the world record was accurately counted. Volunteers from the community documented the day with photos and videos.

Barbara Black, a human resources professional from Chesterton, volunteered along with her husband John to monitor the event. She said she "could go on for hours" about how much she cares about the parks.

"I love the national park and I love the state park," Black said. "When we found out we were coming to Chellberg and Bailly, I was so tickled. "

At West Beach, more than 300 students spent their field trip collecting trash, hiking, composing haikus in the sand and learning about erosion and the ecosystem.

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Porter County General Assignment Reporter

Emily covers Porter County news and features for The Times. A transplant from NW Ohio to NWI, Emily loves talking to people and hearing their stories. She graduated from the University of Toledo in 2018 and believes all dogs are good dogs.

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