On September 11, a group of over 40 Miller-Coors employees came out to INDU’s West Beach on a rainy morning to pull invasive sunflowers and pick up trash on the beach. After getting their parkas on, the devoted volunteers scoured the area and generated several bags of pulled sunflower. Afterwards we all headed to the beach to meet with a group from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. The volunteers headed to the shore and collected over 100 pounds of trash.

On Sunday we hosted another public stewardship event at Mnoke Prairie. We had 9 volunteers show up and help remove some invasive shrubs. They were a great help in our ongoing effort to maintain this beautiful mesic prairie.

A couple days later on Tuesday, I went to Chicago with Ranger Shane to meet up with the Wilderness Inquiry for a Canoemobile event. Wilderness Inquiry goes around the nation for a few months each year with the goal to get school groups out onto the water in canoes. The Chicago River was the first location in Canoemobile’s program, so everyone was excited and ready to go. Since they cannot get more than 40 kids in the water at a time, Wilderness Inquiry asked us, as well as several other organizations including the EPA, to engage the remaining students in land based activities while they wait for their turn on the water. Ranger Shane set up a station where he showed students the art of flint knapping and how to start a fire with sticks. Meanwhile, I led a game about Bioaccumulation to teach the kids about water quality. We also had a touching station with furs from local animals. By the end of the day we had worked with about 140 8th grade students.

The next day had us drive out to the Kankakee River to engage about 80 5th graders. This event was also for the Canoemobile and we hosted similar stations as theIMG_0602 previous day, however we incorporated more about the history of the park. This situation occurred again the next day in the Chinatown portion of Chicago where we interacted with about 120 6th graders throughout the day. For these events the students were divided up so we would only work with about 30 at a time and then they would rotate through each station after a set amount of time. At the end of each session we would call on a student in the group to summarize what they learned. It was always fun to hear what they had to say and it was nice hearing what they retained of the knowledge we had shared.

Yesterday we held two stewardship days back here at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The first was a seed collecting event at Kemil Beach. We had 25 middle shoolers walk along a mile stretch of the dunes and collect seeds from Marram Grass. They had fun and got a lot of work done. They even had time to put their feet in the lake before getting back on the school bus. The next stewardship event for the day involved 40 high school students. They met us at the Great Marsh parking lot to be briefed on the days activity. We then proceeded to hike into the marsh and remove invasive shrubs that lined the trail.

Today is International Coastal Cleanup day. We will be heading out of the office shortly to go to the beach and supervise and participate in the clean up. The Alliance for the Great Lakes has organized hundreds of events today along all the great lakes to pick up trash and record data of the findings. I’m looking forward to helping out- it’ll be the perfect way to end an awesome week!