In continuing Indiana’s Bicentennial celebration, an environmental group is inviting children to spend more time outdoors by giving them a piece of it for themselves.

The Children of Indiana Nature Park, established by the Indiana chapter of The Nature Conservancy, is a 30-acre space located in Centerville. Every Hoosier K-12 student now has the opportunity to claim a “Nature IN-Deed,” for their own geographic coordinate to their own small spot in the park.

Conservancy community outreach coordinator Melissa Moran said the idea is to “spark kids reconnecting to nature,” by giving them a place that feels like their own. As the modern era creates more of a competition for our time, she said, this tangible connection to the outdoors should drive a bigger interest in nature.

Moran called it “the brainchild,” of TNC state director Mary McConnell.

The project – working in coordination with partners including The Cope Environmental Center, The Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Education – began on June 18 with a “gifting ceremony,” of 100 deeds. As of the beginning of this month, 2,000 kids have claimed their deeds.

These deeds are not legally-binding, and only ceremonial. The land for the park was purchased with bicentennial nature trust funds in an area that the DNR had hoped to create more outdoor opportunities. The land is owned and maintained by the Cope center.

Deed holders can visit the park anytime they like, at 4910 Shoemaker Road in Centerville, but will also be invited by the Cope center for occasional activities to learn about and care for the land, such as tree planting and invasive species removal. The Nature Conservancy also has plans to reestablish a hardwood forest at the park.

To learn more about the project, Indiana lands and the park, Hoosiers can visit a network of 22 nature centers in parks across the state. The “Bicentennial Nature Center Network,” provide a special curriculum and also supply physical copies of the deeds.

More nature centers may be added to the project, Moran said, but in a busy bicentennial year, not all of the invited centers have joined the project.

For Courierarea readers, the closest center is the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, 12985 E. US Highway 50, Seymour.

Deeds and more information about the Children of Indiana Nature Park can be found at www.ilovemyland.org

“There’s a much better balance for all of us in our communities between how much time we’re indoors and the time we get to spend outside,” Moran said of the project vision. “And it’ll pay dividends in health and wellbeing.”