Sycamore Land Trust

Preserving land and connecting people to nature


Sycamore Land Trust


Muggs Murphy, GT Teacher at Burris Elementary, Mitchell

Burris Elementary School teacher Muggs Murphy works with her students during a Sycamore Environmental Education outing. Photo by Carroll Ritter.

Burris Elementary School teacher Muggs Murphy works with her students during a Sycamore Environmental Education outing. Photo by Carroll Ritter.

My students’ trips organized by Sycamore Land Trust are incredible! Many of my students have never been in the woods or learned to appreciate nature up close and personal. As a nature lover and educator, I want my students to develop a love for nature so that they will grow up preserving and caring for the woodlands and waterways that we still have left. These trips are not “wasted day” field trips because we do many math, science, and writing activities while exploring our natural environment. I have received wonderful feedback from both students and parents.

The staff of Sycamore is first rate! They are easy to work with and always very well prepared for any and all activities. They are also very relatable to the students. My kids LOVE “Mr. Ritter Days!” Thank you so much for providing this opportunity for my kids.

Judy Morran, Fourth Grade Teacher at Edgewood Intermediate School in Bloomington

Sycamore Land Trust and particularly the environmental educators with the organization have become synonymous with fun and learning in my classroom.  As soon as the students see that I have listed “Carroll Ritter” or Sycamore Land Trust on the daily schedule they are eager and excited.

Students at Edgewood Intermediate School played an active role in building a native prairie on their school grounds.

Students at Edgewood Intermediate School played an active role in building a native prairie on their school grounds.

They know that whatever happens, they will come away with new information gained in a fun, energetic format.  I have been working with Sycamore for the last 7 years.  During that time, I have not only met and interacted with professionals in the field, but I have learned from them and have come to rely upon them as collaborators within my classroom.

The organization has helped me teach and immerse my students in sound environmental concepts that show students how mathematics, history, language arts, and the arts are entwined with nature. This help has come in the form of professionals in the field who come into my classroom to teach my students directly, such as naturalists from Monroe County Parks and Recreation who work with my students on Lepidoptera and water quality monitoring.  Environmental educators with Sycamore Land Trust have worked in my classroom numerous times, sharing scientific expertise and mathematics help. For example, Carroll Ritter taught my fifth graders some necessary calculus to help the students create a model of a sinkhole behind the school using measurements to scale.

Edgewood Intermediate teacher Judy Morran and her students work with Sycamore Land Trust to create an award-winning outdoor lab at their school. Photo by Carroll Ritter.

Edgewood Intermediate teacher Judy Morran and her students appreciate their experience with the Environmental Education Program. Photo by Carroll Ritter.

Probably one of the greatest highlights of working with Sycamore Land Trust has been the work of preserving twenty acres of land next to our school, which won the 2009 Indiana Outdoor Lab of the Year award. Carroll Ritter spearheaded the effort, working with me, state department officials, the Ellettsville Town Council, and the Monroe County Council to create a county nature preserve. Students and parents are now working with Mr. Ritter to create a trail through this wetland. Thanks to the expertise, time, and guidance of Mr. Ritter and Sycamore Land Trust, we created an Indiana native prairie, a monarch way station, a native Indiana upland forest trail, and a wildlife field.

Sycamore Land Trust has also helped arrange field trips for students to one of their preserves, Beanblossom Bottoms. In a three-way collaboration (Sycamore, Indiana University Department of Parks and Recreation, and our school), Sycamore set up learning centers within the wetland preserve.  Students learned migration, nesting, and habitat destruction, all within the natural classroom of the preserve. It was a day they
will all remember.

Martha Turner, Fourth Grade Teacher at Needmore Elementary School

Everything that my class and I have done with Mr. Ritter and Sycamore Land Trust has been awesome. The idea of getting outside of the classroom piques their interest. They have so much fun, they don’t even think of it as school!

We were fortunate to go to the Christ farm in Monroe County. The 200+ year old tree was definitely a highlight of the day. The house on the property is well over 150 years old. The kids were fascinated to learn about it. They wrote about the fact that it has a limestone foundation and that the bricks were made from the clay from the banks of the creek. I was amazed at how many notes they brought back to the classroom that day. They were so happy to meet and listen to Mrs. Christ, who shared a lot of interesting information about the house and the grounds.  My students are very proud to be Hoosiers, and the opportunity to meet and talk to her has enhanced their “Hoosier Pride.”

As usual, Mr. Ritter had put together all kinds of very organized activities for the class.  He and his crew had stations for us to participate in throughout the day. The students were using many of our state standards in all subjects. They worked with writing, history, identifying leaves and trees, measurement, working with mathematical formulas, identifying animals, observations with water properties, as well as lots of physical activities. And we didn’t stop there. When we returned to our class room, for the next week, we did a lot of follow up activities around our own school grounds. We even teamed up with a couple of other classes and grades to do some of the activities. It was very fulfilling!

Paul Farmer, AP Biology Teacher at Bloomington High School South

My AP biology classes would like to thank Sycamore Land Trust and IU Research and Teaching Preserve for giving us such a wonderful opportunity to see science in action. Giving high school students the chance to engage themselves in an ongoing survey of invasive and noninvasive plant species and their effect on native plants will be nothing but wonderful. The possibilities are almost endless. I actually see the project expanding to our stats classes. What a great way for our math and science students to work together.  It is amazing for the kids to see how so many organizations can work together and have a common goal and purpose in mind.