Children had the opportunity to explore ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor’s natural woodland on Tuesday. ArcelorMittal hosted some 75 area students grades 3-5 from the Mighty Acorns Nature Camp to investigate the steelmaker’s nature area and learn about the importance of preserving such habitats.
For one day during the weeklong Mighty Acorns camp, students have the chance to visit ArcelorMittal and learn about the steel industry, wildlife, how to preserve our water systems and protect natural habitats from invasive species through interactive activities.
For more than 25 years, the Mighty Acorns program has been present in schools throughout Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. ArcelorMittal has been the leading sponsor of the Northwest Indiana programming for most of those years. The curriculum is taught by teachers throughout the school year to help students learn more about the importance of nature preservation, which culminates in a five-day camping experience at the Dunes Learning Center in Porter, where students from all four states put what they learned during their school year to the test.
Alisha Zick, outreach education coordinator for the Dunes Learning Center, spoke about the curriculum for the school year, focused on science and connecting students to nature and their communities.
“Teachers provide students with a [Mighty Acorns] pre-and-post lesson for fall, winter and spring,” said Zick. “Then in the middle of each season, students visit one of our natural areas and participate in onsite activities, similar to the activities here at Burns Harbor, that complement the classroom curriculum.”
Jolice Pojeta, manager of corporate responsibility and communications at ArcelorMittal, explained the company’s commitment to enriching students’ involvement in environmental education and stewardship.
“As the leading sponsor of the Mighty Acorns program here in Northwest Indiana, we feel it’s important to share our walking trails and natural areas with students so they can learn about nature in a fun and unique way,” Pojeta said. “The Mighty Acorns program is one example of ArcelorMittal’s commitment to stewardship and environmental education.”
Tyler Botbyl, an engineer at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor and board member for Dunes Learning Center, grew up having a blast at the dunes with his grandmother all year round. As an adult, Botbyl knows the importance of nature preservation and the value of learning it at an early age.
“We need to inspire children’s creativity and curiosity in nature and provide those opportunities whenever possible,” Botbyl said. “DLC’s environmental education programs are designed to provide kids the chance to learn and be creative through outdoor exploration of science, nature and stewardship.”
ArcelorMittal wants every child to have the opportunity to be involved and learn, even if they are unable to pay for camp. Because of ArcelorMittal, students can attend the Mighty Acorns Nature Camp at a discounted rate.
Shirley Heinze Land Trust is also involved in the delivery of the Mighty Acorns program in Northwest Indiana. Sarah Barnes, programs manager at Shirley Heinze Land Trust, talked about the importance of teaching students stewardship.
“Our main focus when we come to Mighty Acorns Nature Camp is the stewardship component, where the students remove invasive species and can see their impact on the land be positive,” Barnes said. “We often talk about the human impact being negative, but this shows they can do something physical and positive to help.”
Shirley Heinze Land Trust has been partnering with Mighty Acorns since 2009. According to Barnes, they see a significance in teaching elementary-age children about land preservation because of their eagerness to learn and the opportunity to give them a foundation to build on as they go into middle and high school.
It’s important to think about the impact we have on our environment and what we can do to help. For more information about these programs, visit: