Photo: Christy Page
Mighty Acorns is a field-based program that introduces young people to nature through exploration and stewardship in a way that fosters a personal connection to natural areas.
Students in the program:
- Explore natural areas through three field trips each year to a local natural area such as a park, a prairie, or a woodland, to become familiar with its flora and fauna, to understand its history, and to observe its ecological relationships.
- Learn basic ecological concepts such as adaptation, interdependence, communities, competition, and biodiversity as they move through the series of integrated classroom lessons and field experiences.
- Restore native habitats through stewardship activities that aim to enhance and preserve environmental health. Activities can include anything from removing invasive plant species and collecting seeds, to reintroducing native plants. By participating in stewardship activities, students become part of a larger land management effort which includes private citizens, public agencies, and community organizations.
The Mighty Acorns curriculum was developed in the early 1990’s by The Nature Conservancy and has since been implemented by a partnership of dedicated education professionals throughout the Chicagoland Region. The Mighty Acorns Partnership includes forest preserves, park districts, non-profit education organizations, and cultural institutions. Partners work with schools throughout the year to train teachers and volunteers, coordinate field trips, and plan stewardship activities. Partners also work together to fundraise for, plan, and implement two week-long overnight Mighty Acorns Nature Camps held at the Dunes Learning Center, located in the heart of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Attendees spend the week getting to know fellow Acorns from throughout the Chicago Region, while taking part in traditional camp activities and exploring regional natural resources along Lake Michigan.
The Field Museum is closely involved in the work of the Mighty Acorns partnership as well as in implementing the program in the Calumet region of Chicago. Since 2002, ECCo has been working with partners such as the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Chicago Park District, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to provide Chicago Public School students an opportunity to take part in Mighty Acorns.
In 2009, ECCo expanded its reach to work with the Shirley Heinze Land Trust and others in supporting the implementation of the program by schools in Northwest Indiana. Through Mighty Acorns, students from schools in the Calumet Region are developing a lasting connection to the environment while restoring native habitat.
Learn more about ECCo's Urban Conservation work in the Chicago Region.