Winter open house draws visitors to Dunes Learning Center
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent January 11, 2014 5:36PM
Thea Bowman Leadership Academy teacher Tammy Tiede and sixth-graders Sarah Matos, 11, and Lyric Johnson, 10, make show shoes from invasive species Saturday during an open house at the Dunes Learning Center in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. | Sun-Times Media
For more on the Dunes Learning Center, located within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, go to www.duneslearningcenter.org, or call 395-9555.
Updated: February 13, 2014 6:57AM
CHESTERTON — The smell of fresh popcorn beckoned visitors to Cowles Lodge at the Dunes Learning Center on Saturday.
Once inside, they found live music, crafts and the chance to take a hike in the brisk winter air.
This was the second year for the learning center’s winter open house.
“We started doing this as an outgrowth of the Get Outdoors Day open house in June,” said Sandi Weindling, the center’s marketing director. That event, part of a national day to encourage children to go outside, drew 300 people. “There was such an overwhelming demand for that, we thought we could do it seasonally.”
About 150 people registered for the winter open house. The learning center offers programs for school groups and summer camps, but is not generally open to the public, said Mylinda Cane, president of the center’s board.
The open houses offer the public the chance to come on by.
“We tried to reach out to the community to see this amazing facility,” she said.
Tammy Tiede, a teacher at Thea Bowman Leadership in Gary, brought along two of her students, sixth-graders Sara Matos, 11, and Lyric Johnson, 10. Tiede and her class took an overnight field trip to the center in May, and Tiede offered her students the chance to go back for a few hours for the open house.
“I just thought it would be a fun activity,” Tiede said.
After crafts and cookies, the girls, who said they enjoyed the wide array of activities and environments at the learning center, headed to a nearby cabin to make snowshoes out of invasive species Oriental bittersweet and autumn olive.
Learning center staff made the frames for the shoes from the bittersweet to save time, and participants used yarn and autumn olive to make the latticework.
Kellie Koerner, an outreach educator for the center, led the project, and provided a bit of information about the material being used.
“This is made from plants we do not want to grow here,” she said.