CHESTERTON – The Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League was awarded grants to support its E-STEM in the Field project for 5th- and 6th-graders in La Porte and Porter counties, and a local hunting initiative.
Awarded at the annual Izaak Walton League of America convention in Des Moines in July, the award included an E-STEM in the Field grant to pay expenses of up to 16 classes and volunteer experts to visit the Frame Family Conservation Area. They will study and report on the restoration of wetlands, prairie, and woodlands on the property, according to project manager and chapter executive director Annette Hansen.
"Professional employees of NIPSCO and others from across northern Indiana will guide 5th- and 6th-grade classes from La Porte and Porter counties," she said.
The chapter was also awarded a NiSource Environmental Action grant and a grant from the Indiana Division IWLA Endowment to support the project.
Gary Brown, chapter president, said one of the classes in the fall and another in the spring will be developed exclusively for girls "as part of a national effort to get more women int o the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“That is the origin of the term STEM,” he said, “We added the ‘E’ because of the focus on environmental concerns.
“Extra focus will be placed on water quality and stream health on the East Branch of the Little Calumet River that crosses our property as part of the Clean Water Challenge.”
The Challenge is a national Izaak Walton effort to get another 100,000 stream segments across the nation monitored by volunteers, Hansen said.
"The intent is to inform regulating agencies and the public about stream health and water quality."
The other project is called the Family Hunting Heritage Project, which will "introduce new families and individual members to hunting on the Chapter’s Sandra Dee Bedenkop Spring Run property," Hansen said.
“There are a lot of families, including mine, that want to learn to hunt to put healthy food on our tables. We also love being outside and being part of nature.”
The instruction will include an Indiana DNR Hunter Education class, habitat management, building and maintaining blinds, field dressing and more. The grant will pay for safety and hunting equipment as well as the training. Brown said.
“These projects are perfect Ike projects. The STEM project helps us with our Clean Water Challenge and the Hunting Heritage project will promote the national ‘R3’ Initiative.”
R3 is a nationwide effort to “recruit, retain, and reactivate” families and individuals into the outdoor sports again, Brown said.
"Sales of hunting and fishing licenses are going down and that hurts the conservation of all those species. Grab your family and go outside!”