NLI launches America in Bloom project

The Natural Land Institute (NLI) is jumping head first into America in Bloom, Rockford’s city-wide campaign to clean up and beautify the city. The director of education for NLI, Lynda Johnson, has launched a program for children in the area around the NLI office located in one of Rockford’s historic districts, Haight Village.

The name of the NLI program is the Coneflower Project. Coneflowers and snapdragons are the official flowers of the America in Bloom organization.

In the Natural Land Institute’s Coneflower Project, children in the neighborhood will learn why it is important to pick up litter, plant flowers and learn about nature in the process. They will build an interactive life model of the web of life, woven between the sun and the earth and all its creatures. The purpose of the program is to help city children understand their connection with nature.

Volunteers for the Natural Land Institute are growing about 700 coneflowers at the Nygren Wetland Preserve in Rockton, Ill., for the children to plant.

“People only care about what they love, and they only love what they know. If you grow up in a city—distant from nature—you won’t love or protect it. Educating children about the importance of our natural world is critical for preservation of our natural lands, parks and forest preserves,” says Jerry Paulson, executive director of the Natural Land Institute.

Partnering with NLI in this education process is Rockford College’s Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement. In the early 1900s, the building that now houses the Natural Land Institute’s headquarters was home of the president of Rockford College. At that time, Rockford College was also in Haight Village. Graduate student Julie Austermiller assists NLI’s Director of Education Johnson.

The Natural Land Institute’s Coneflower Project is funded in part by a grant from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. It includes Nelson, Kishwaukee, and Beyer schools; the Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and Centennial United Methodist Church. This project runs from the end of April through the end of June.

From the May 11-17, 2005, issue

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