Mighty Acorn Projects
We have enjoyed continued expansion of the program across our entire operating area within multiple school systems. Initially, the program began with twelve classes from the School City of Hobart during the 2009-2010 school year. It was expanded to cover all twenty one classes in Hobart during the 2010-2011 school year. The program was brought to Portage Township Schools during the school year of 2011-2012. During the initial implementation of the program in that district, resources would only allow our partnership to serve sixteen, fourth grade classrooms. During the following school year of 2012-2013, additional funding was secured to allow expansion to an additional sixteen, fifth grade classrooms. Simultaneously, the program was instituted in two fourth and two fifth grade classes at Discovery Charter School and a pilot program began with third grade students in East Chicago. With additional funding for the 2013-2014 school year we continued expansion in Portage Schools and brought on an additional sixteen fourth grade classes at four new schools.
The largest restriction to expansion has been funding. The timeliness of securing funding dictates the rate at which the program is able to expand. Upon the fulfillment of serving all fourth and fifth grade classes at Portage Township Schools, it is the intention of SHLT and its partners to bring the opportunity to participate in this unique and highly valuable program to Valparaiso Community Schools. Our new office location and preserve in Valparaiso has all the necessary green infrastructure and amenities to serve as one of, if not the, premiere outdoor learning environment(s) in all of Porter County. Over five miles of hiking trails traversing multiple habitat types, 6 roofed pavilions, 2 workshop cabins, and an outdoor amphitheater make Meadowbrook Preserve an outstanding location to serve the local school district.
We define success as our ability to effectively carry out the planned expansion of the program, while continuing to serve all current classes with the high level of environmental education that has become the standard of the Mighty Acorns program.
Prior to the inaugural session for a new classroom, students are given a baseline survey, which assess the current level of environmental knowledge and understanding. Upon completion of the first year of the program, students are then given a very similar survey, which allows us to gage the impact of our activities and ensure that the critical concepts are being retained.