Dunes Learning Center Receives $7,000 from Valparaiso University Students to Fund Mighty Acorns

By: Dunes Learning Center Last Updated: May 13, 2015

VU-check-awarded-to-Dunes-Learning-CenterValparaiso University students awarded Dunes Learning Center a $7,000 grant as part of a special American literature and experiential philanthropy course.

ENGLISH 396, Traditions of Giving and Serving in American Life, introduces students to writings about charity and service, while taking them through a real-world grant development process. The program is made possible by the generous support of the Learning by Giving Foundation. Founded by Doris Buffett, Warren Buffett’s sister, this national organization is dedicated to teaching effective charitable giving.

“Dunes Learning Center has an amazing program,” said Kellie McAllister, ENGLISH 396 class representative. “The class was very impressed, and determined that their mission to provide experiential and service learning opportunities was exactly what we wanted to support.”

Grant funds will help to fund Dunes Learning Center’s Mighty Acorns program, which brings sustainability education to underserved, urban communities.

Created around the idea of connecting students with nature, Mighty Acorns is an innovative, multi-year hands-on learning program that engages third through sixth graders through education, restoration and exploration activities in natural areas near their schools. The STEM based curriculum combines classroom and field components to prepare students for academic and career success. The Northwest Indiana Mighty Acorns program served 1,377 Porter County students from 51 Porter County classrooms during the 2014-2015 school year. Mighty Acorns students completed over 1,250 hours of stewardship work during more than 150 study trips to natural areas in Porter County last year—including Imagination Glen in Portage.

“We’re committed to nurturing the next generation of environmental stewards and problem solvers through hands-on and service learning opportunities,” said Geof Benson, executive director at Dunes Learning Center. “It’s exciting to see so many young people engaged in activities that serve their community, whether through Mighty Acorns or Learning by Giving. Both programs are powerful tools for developing empowered and informed citizens.”

The Northwest Indiana Mighty Acorns Partnership is a collaboration between Dunes Learning Center, Shirley Heinze Land Trust and the Chicago Field Museum, serving more than 3,500 students in Indiana’s Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. Major funding for the Northwest Indiana Mighty Acorns Partnership is provided by ArcelorMittal. To learn more about Dunes Learning Center and the Mighty Acorns program, visit

Valparaiso University and Learning by Giving Foundation have partnered over the last seven years to give away $70,000 to Northwest Indiana nonprofits. In addition to their award to Dunes Learning Center, the students awarded $3,000 to Porter County Parks Foundation to build a Native American-themed play area at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.