Children’s waders allow students to embark on learning feet first. Summer educational programs are made possible through generous donors and partnerships with organizations like Presby Preschool. Photo provided.

WINONA LAKE – Nearly 800 students took a step closer to water literacy this summer thanks to coordinated programming between the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams and its partners.

Thousands of students make a new connection with nature each school year by taking a field trip to the Lilly Center, according to a Lilly Center press release. Why outdoor education? Nathan Herbert of The Nature Conservancy explained it this way: “There are so many reasons to get out into nature: for health, for inspiration, to connect with the earth and to learn. Children especially light up when they have the chance to explore our natural spaces.

Lilly Center’s K-12 programs preserve the lakes by inspiring students, but without the structure of a classroom, summer teaching presents some challenges.

The answer? “We wanted our summer programs to be as robust as our school year programs. But it takes collaboration,” explained Sarah Baier, education program specialist at the Lilly Center.

In addition to ongoing partners like lake associations and watershed groups, partners like the Warsaw Community Library, the Bowen Center and The Nature Conservancy have collaborated with the Lilly Center on summer educational programs. This summer also included the 12th Lake Festival, sponsored by the City of Warsaw.

Presby Preschool was an educational collaborator.

“It was an honor and a pleasure to host Presby Nature Classroom this summer,” said Courtney Brown, former vice-principal of Presby Preschool. “With the help of many local foundations, including the Lilly Center, who also see the importance of the mission of getting children out and giving them the tools to care for the earth and themselves, we were able to give 35 children multiple opportunities to develop a deep sense of self, community and a beautiful and growing connection with nature.

Looking ahead to the 2022-2023 school year, the Lilly Center is thrilled to build more than 7,000 student relationships through field trips and programs like Lake in the Library. Students learn about the life cycles and habitats of aquatic and semi-aquatic animals, why wetlands and aquifers are important, and how water changes land over time. Each lesson is carefully crafted to meet Indiana and next-generation science standards, the statement said.

The Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams at Grace College conducts research, provides resources, engages and educates residents, and collaborates with local organizations to keep lakes and streams in Kosciusko County clean, healthy, safe, and beautiful. To date, the Lilly Center has conducted scientific research on more than 30 rivers and 40 lakes. The Lilly Center is committed to creating a legacy of stewardship by enabling community members, visitors and future generations to understand and enjoy the county’s natural beauty.

For more information, visit lakes.grace.edu.