Monarch Environmental Education Endowment

by Ann Connors, Development Director

This article originally appeared in the summer 2018 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member.

Students from the Harmony School in Bloomington enjoying a rainy day at our Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve.

Why are our favorite memories so often about being outdoors? There’s something about playing, hiking, and relaxing in nature that refreshes us and helps prepare us for the other parts of our busy lives. Studies have found that time in nature enhances physical health, improves critical thinking skills, decreases depression, and has other lasting benefits.

People who connect with nature are more motivated to protect it. For years, Sycamore volunteers led hikes and taught lessons at schools in our area, but we wanted to do even more. Our Environmental Education Program began in 2005 with Carroll Ritter as a part-time educator. Shane Gibson joined the staff in 2015 as Sycamore’s first full-time Environmental Education (EE) Director. Over the past two years, more than 9,000 people have been involved in Sycamore’s EE program through public hikes on our preserves, ongoing programs with classes from preschool through college, and programs for diverse community groups and summer camps.

To ensure that our EE program continues strong forever, we established the Monarch Environmental Education Endowment in 2016, managed by the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County (CFBMC). The endowment helps Sycamore plan for the future by establishing an investment whose principal is never spent, with earnings that are used to pay EE program expenses each year.

We are working hard to raise $1.3 million for the endowment so that earnings can fully cover the salary of the EE Director and some related program expenses. We are thrilled to have raised $816k, with an additional $100k pledged for this spring, and hope to reach our goal this year – and this is where you can help!

Some of the Endowment’s enthusiastic supporters shared their reasons for contributing to this fund:


“People only take care of what they love, and they love only what they know. When children have the opportunity to poke around in creeks, gaze up into the branches of big trees, watch eagles on a nest, or glimpse a fox – they will develop a love of the greater-than-human world and want to help protect it. Having the opportunity to explore land protected by Sycamore, in the company of adults who encourage them to pay attention and appreciate nature, is vital for the emotional and physical health of children. I don’t know of any land trust that has been more effective than Sycamore at preserving habitat for other species and reconnecting humans to our glorious planet.”


“The Community Foundation applauds Sycamore Land Trust for their very deliberate approach to growing the sustainability of their environmental programs. Those donors who support the Endowment are making a gift to this generation and to everyone who follows. Preserving land while educating successive generations to respect, protect, and embrace those lands is both wise and essential.”


“Since the Raymond Foundation started in 1993, we have primarily supported education related to the sciences. Our support for environmental education is a critical part of this mission, and not just because it encompasses the sciences…it also introduces people to the beauty, complexity, and wonder of our environment and our place in it. Sycamore Land Trust is in a unique position to carry out this kind of education. This is why we have encouraged and supported this initiative since 2005. We believe it is extremely important for our society to have a knowledge and appreciation of our natural world. Without argument, that’s what Sycamore Land Trust is all about. Many special places in Indiana have been protected, providing sanctuaries from our digital obsessions, protection for critical species, outdoor laboratories, and many reasons to trust this organization with the important task of environmental education.”


“It’s all about the future. If you don’t get kids outside, you have no way for them to be concerned about the environment. Kids who connect with nature are more caring and curious, and end up being better people. And it’s better for the parents as they see what we are doing and what the kids are learning and experiencing.”


“Many people enjoy the land, but not everyone realizes that you can love the land to death. The reason Vectren supports the Monarch Environmental Education Endowment at Sycamore Land Trust is because this program not only teaches you to love the land, but why love the land and how to love the land, and to protect the land so that others may enjoy the land as well.”

To learn more or contribute to the Monarch Environmental Education Endowment, please contact me at or 812-336-5382 ext. 104 Thank you!