Educational Institutions

Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center, Inc.

  • Porter, IN
  • www.duneslearningcenter.org

Mission Statement

The mission of Dunes Learning Center is to inspire lasting curiosity and stewardship with nature.

To create engaged,
informed and inspired citizens
through transformative experiences
with nature.

Main Programs

  1. Frog In the Bog
  2. Winter Survival in the Dunes
  3. Summer Discovery Camps
  4. Dunes to You
Service Areas

Self-reported

Indiana

Northwest Indiana, greater Chicagoland, Southwest Michigan

ruling year

1998

Executive Director since 2013

Self-reported

Mr. Geof Benson

Director of Marketing and Development

Self-reported

Ms. Sandi Weindling

Keywords

Self-reported

Environmental Education, summer camp, camp, outdoor education, science education, science camp, nature study, stewardship, service learning

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Also Known As

Dunes Learning Center

EIN

35-2031658

 Number

2512224674

Physical Address

700 Howe Rd.

Porter, IN 46304

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Education N.E.C. (B99)

Environmental Education and Outdoor Survival Programs (C60)

Other Youth Development N.E.C. (O99)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Overview

Self-reported by organization

In FY2016, 14,122 individuals participated in a Dunes Learning Center program, adding to a total of more than 100,000 since opening our doors in 1998.

As we celebrate 100,000 individuals inspired by Dunes Learning Center programs, the need for quality environmental education has never been greater or more broadly recognized.  4,567 students from low-income and underserved communities benefited from scholarships that reduce program costs. For many, their Dunes Learning Center experience was a significant and memorable milestone—their first night away from home, first hike under the stars, first time climbing a dune or seeing Lake Michigan, and their first national park.

Programs

Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Frog In the Bog

This three day/two night hands on education program combines discovery, adventure and fun with math, science and social studies.

Category

Education

Population(s) Served

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)

Budget

$190,000.00

Program 2

Winter Survival in the Dunes

Over two days/one night students explore how human, plant, and animal inhabitants adapt to winter changes. Meets state and national learning standards

Category

Education

Population(s) Served

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)

Budget

$50,000.00

Program 3

Summer Discovery Camps

Spend 5 days at this overnight environmental education camp.

Category

Education

Population(s) Served

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)

Budget

$91,000.00

Program 4

Dunes to You

Delivering Curriculum such as Mighty Acorns®, Earth Force, Calumet is My Backyard, and Great Lakes in My Classroom, as well as customized programs

Category

Education

Population(s) Served

Children Only (5 - 14 years)

Budget

$240,000.00

Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    Guided by a mission to “inspire lasting curiosity and stewardship with nature," Dunes Learning Center works in partnership with the National Park Service to provide field-based education experiences that nurture a love of learning and the outdoors. Standards-aligned programs provide individuals of all ages, backgrounds and abilities opportunities to be inspired by the unique biodiversity of the Calumet region. Environmental education is a great equalizer, accommodating diverse learning styles, interests and abilities. Teachers report that students who struggle in traditional settings blossom in our outdoor classroom. As one teacher put it,
    “Our goals for this trip are to open the doors for our children to a world much larger than the one they live in. A world of nature, serenity, and fun where they do not have to worry about their next meal or who, if anyone will be home when they get there. A world of learning without knowing it and adventure that they may never before had the opportunity to experience. Through this trip, we give the students hope of a future outside of the cycle they now live in. Along the way we cover some key components of our 4th grade curriculum like animal habitats and adaptations, phases of the moon, and measurement (to name a few.) We bring fun and excitement to learning which will hopefully make for lifelong learners.'

    Programs serve students from at least five states and include:
    Single- and multi-day residential experiences at our Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore campus,
    Service-learning stewardship programs at sites throughout northwest Indiana,
    Classroom programs that bring environmental learning experiences to schools,
    Open-house events serving hundreds of visitors, and
    Professional development, adult, and family programs.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    Dunes Learning Center is funded through diverse and sustainable sources, including grants and donations (35%), National Park Service funding (30%), and program fees (31%). Strategies to increase individual support, including event sponsorship, have been taken up by our Board of Directors who were instrumental in increasing revenues from sponsorship by nearly 200% in FY2016. The board is continuing a planned strategic transition to a “fundraising" board with the new Development Committee chair in the process of assembling a team, identifying opportunities and setting goals. The allocation of funds for the new director of development position speaks to the board's commitment to growing and diversifying revenue sources.

    The demand for tuition assistance funds for low-income program participants, benefiting 64% of participants, or 9,083 students in 2016, is Dunes Learning Center's most notable fiscal trend. Many students simply could not benefit from Dunes Learning Center's programs without assistance. The following statement of need from Central School in Portage is typical:

    “Unfortunately, not all families are financially able to give their children the types of experiences that this trip has to offer. Central is a neighborhood school located in a low-income area of Portage. Currently, 65% of our students receive free or reduced lunch. We at Central, however, do not believe that low income should deter academic and social progress. It is our goal to give these students learning experiences that they need but cannot afford. Your sponsorship can help provide them that opportunity."

    Closing the “gap" between program costs and tuition charged while keeping these valuable programs accessible to schools and families is an ongoing challenge.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    Last year we sustainably improved infrastructure and generated cost-savings through the installation of on-demand water heaters in 10 cabins. Dunes Learning Center is working with the National Park Service to address several technological and facility infrastructure challenges. Current water and internet services limit growth and productivity. Solutions have been planned, but progress is slow and costly. 2 new 15-passenger, propane-fueled busses were introduced in 2016, along with a fueling station. These assets are shared with Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and are part of a larger plan to address ongoing program transportation issues and reduce contract costs related to busses.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    Meaningful evaluation and long term outcome data is essential to assessing and improving program effectiveness, as well as demonstrating value to participants, supporters and the community. Dunes Learning Center continues to refine assessment tools and seeks to incorporate best practices that are appropriate to evaluating progress toward our goals.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    Dunes Learning Center's staff of trained and certified environmental educators, formal partnership with the National Park Service, and residential campus located in the national lakeshore are unique and valuable assets. Our nonprofit/public model and unmatched access to national park resources is shared by fewer than 20 organizations in the nation. We are, by far, the dominant provider of field-based environmental literacy programs in the region, lending leadership, capacity and expertise to a number of formal and informal coalitions. We continue to provide leadership and administration for the Northwest Indiana Mighty Acorns Partnership, delivering seasonal, field-based, ESTEM learning and stewardship opportunities to nearly 2,500 3-6th grade students, thanks to a 3-year investment by the ArcelorMittal Foundation. The foundation has expressed their intention to renew and even increase their investment in 2017.

    Dunes Learning Center's staff of 30 swells to 40 in the summer when school-year staff is supplemented by camp counselors who stay in the cabins with campers (a need met by teachers and parent chaperones during the school year). An executive director leads administrative staff, which consists of department directors representing education, outreach, external relations, program administration and facilities. 10 naturalist interns deliver residential programs at our national lakeshore campus, reporting to a lead naturalist who works closely with the director of education.

    Three “Dunes To You" outreach educators report to our Dunes To You coordinator and work primarily in the field. Part-time grant (offsite) and marketing and development managers support fundraising activities. A highly-qualified part-time accountant works closely with the executive director and delivers monthly financial reports. Part-time kitchen staff round out the list. Education, resource and maintenance specialists from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, as well as individuals from partnering organizations, including The Field Museum and Shirley Heinze Land Trust, supplement Dunes Learning Center staff.


    In FY2016, Dunes Learning Center's board of directors approved the addition of a director of development, splitting the director of marketing and development position into two leadership roles. It is hoped that this important step will allow the professionals in both positions to expand their reach, set more ambitious goals, and work toward spreading a deeper understanding of, and commitment to, branding and fundraising throughout the organization. In March of 2016, we added a dedicated, part-time data-base manager, charged with maintaining and maximizing our substantial data resources, specifically in the areas of fundraising and evaluation.

    Our board of directors reflects the communities we serve and is committed to strengthening the organization through fundraising and governance. Board members attend orientation, achieve an understanding of our mi
Service Areas

Self-reported

Indiana

Northwest Indiana, greater Chicagoland, Southwest Michigan

Social Media

Funding Needs

General Operating Funds, Support for Program Costs for Underserved Schools, Capital Needs (Facilities, Technology, etc.)

Videos

photos


External Reviews

Source: greatnonprofits.org

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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

INDIANA DUNES ENVIRONMENTAL LEARNING CENTER, INC.
Fiscal year: Oct 01-Sep 30
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center, Inc.

Leadership

NEED MORE INFO ON THIS NONPROFIT?

Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2014
  • Board Chair, Board Co-Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
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Executive Director

Mr. Geof Benson

Director of Marketing and Development

Ms. Sandi Weindling

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Ms. Teresa Massa

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices. Self-reported by organization

Yes

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Yes

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Yes

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Yes

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Yes

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


ORGANIZATIONAL DEMOGRAPHICS

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

Gender
Race & Ethnicity
Sexual Orientation

This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members, Full-Time Staff and Part-Time Staff.

Disability

This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Full-Time Staff.

Diversity Strategies
Yes
We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
No
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
No
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
No
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
No
We have a diversity committee in place
No
We have a diversity manager in place
No
We have a diversity plan
No
We use other methods to support diversity