Category Archives: Dream It – Do It!

What is Dani’s Dreams About?

#Explore   #ButterfliesUPCLOSE    #teacherinnovation

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Local Scout makes dreams come true for Southern Hancock families

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Dani’s Dreams Innovation in Education Corp. is all about empowering young people to “Change the World”, and New Palestine High School sophomore Zachary Mitchell is making his commitment a reality.

Zachary grew up alongside Dani’s Dreams and now wants to give back by making a lasting impact for families in Hancock County.

“I grew up with Dani’s Dreams and I’ve heard the story of Dani all my life,” Zachary said. “I chose the outdoor lab as my Eagle Scout project because I saw the lab and wanted to help.”

A Hancock County Scout for nine years, Zachary Mitchell has an Eagle Scout project that will benefit Hancock County residents of all ages and bring families together to share the wonder of nature through his “Dreaming Tree Porch” project.

“I talked with Donna (Griffin, Dani’s Dreams president and CEO) and found out what she needed at Dani’s Dreams,” Zachary said. “I saw that the lab needed more work and outside displays, so I decided we could do benches, tables and a patio.”

Zachary has raised about $1,200 of the nearly $1,700 project, including a donation from the American Legion, and hopes to get about $500 from the community to be able to put in a paver porch, benches and display tables in front of the Go Green Center at Dani’s Dreams Outdoor Education Center at Zion Lutheran School in New Palestine.

Zachary has spent this year fundraising, including a Pancake Breakfast in June at Zion and hopes to begin construction of the “Dreaming Tree Porch” for Hancock County families later this fall.

“The project will includes a 12 x 25-foot paver patio, two benches and two plexiglass tables for displays of rocks, insects and other interesting information,” Zachary said.

To donate for Zachary’s Eagle Scout Project, email him at or call 861-4915

“I’ve been a Scout ever since first grade,” Zachary said. “It’s been a long journey, but I wanted to stick with it and help the community.”

And his project will have a lasting impact on outdoor education and families throughout Hancock County.

“I’ve learned through this project how to be a strong leader, help others and to teach them how to use tools – tools for life,” Zachary said.

The Go Green Center, funded through a Hancock County Community Foundation Grant in 2012, serves K-8 students in Southern Hancock Schools with STEM and environmental education displays, activities and projects, including fully-functioning solar panels that power the building.

“The porch will be an area for student work/collections to be on display and for parents/grandparents and children to walk, rest and spend time together sharing and learning,” Griffin said.

Griffin added the new tables will allow Dani’s Dreams to bring out displays and hands-on items that would normally be locked inside the building.

“He’s inspired us already,” Griffin said. “We’ve repainted and are currently reorganizing our materials and activities as well as working with teachers to develop lessons to meet their curriculum needs.”

Taking care of ‘Our Common Ground’ – Dani’s Dreams coming to Sugar Creek Park

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Dani’s Dreams Outdoor Education Center is joining forces with the Sugar Creek Township Park Board, New Palestine High School teacher Brittany Bennett and her AP Environmental Science class and Donna Rogler, Indiana DNR Project Learning Tree specialist, to develop a second education trail/activities for Southern Hancock students, teachers, families and community members, to be named, Dani’s Dreams Outdoor Education Trail at Sugar Creek Park.

NPHS AP environmental science (APES) students under the direction of Ms. Bennett will research, write and design signage as well as plan and lead activities for the trail. Ms. Rogler will provide curriculum, training and activities through Project Learning Tree.
Initial plans were announced Nov. 4 at the Dani’s Dreams Family Tree Day event at Sugar Creek Park (photo gallery above).

“The trail would have an overall theme of sustainability and should be a place the whole community can enjoy at any time to learn about the nature around them,” said Dani’s Dreams Outdoor Education Center director Donna Griffin.

Dani’s Dreams has been working with New Palestine High’s APES students on the plan for the trail. Four stations are under development, focusing on:

Native trees/plants
Water/Hoosier Riverwatch.

Bennett and her students will be the leaders for the development and implementation of the trail, integrating their work into the APES curriculum and Dani’s Dreams mission to encourage and support teachers in use of creativity in the classroom, to foster an interest in science and discovery with projects designed to develop an appreciation, responsibility and concern for the natural world.

“Dani’s Dreams Nature Education Trail at Sugar Creek Township Park will build the next generation of committed invested citizens of New Palestine,” Griffin said. “This will empower the youth in this community to be leaders in their community and school and active participants in their education. The education value of this project is more than doubled with high school students teaching and mentoring elementary and middle school students and sharing their knowledge with the community.”

Community businesses, organizations, families and individuals who want to be involved in this innovative STEM education project, can contact Donna Griffin, or Brittany Bennett,

“Community-based environmental education can also support opportunities for intergenerational learning. With these kinds of approaches, community residents from young to old can learn from each other.” – National Environmental Education Foundation Environmental Literacy Report, 2015.



Join Dani’s Dreams for ‘Tree’-mendous fun today at Sugar Creek Park!

Take a nature walk, learn about trees and get creative – share the beauty of fall and the wonderful weather (while it lasts) today at Sugar Creek Park.

Dani’s Dreams Outdoor Education Center invites all New Palestine families to Family Tree Day at Sugar Creek Park today, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 4-5:30 p.m. Join us for fun, outdoor education activities for all ages and be a part of the plans for “Our Common Ground.” Contact Donna Griffin at for more information. Stay tuned to and the Dani’s Dreams Outdoor Education Center Facebook Page for more details.


PHOTOSYNTHESIS: Carbon Dioxide + Water + Light —-> Sugar + Oxygen

Dani’s Dreams reporter Anna Caster, Zion Lutheran student, gives you the fun facts about our towering tree friends:
By Anna Caster
Trees are very beautiful! There are many kinds of trees, such as Norway Spruce, White Pine, Juniper, Tulip Poplar, Maple and Cherry. Trees are useful for many different things in many different ways, such as shade, protection and shelter for animals, paper and wood products, and many other things.
Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Humans are the exact opposite, we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Trees are helpful in making gum, picnic tables, cutting boards, doors, and trees help keep the soil on the ground from having erosion. Trees are wonderful plants that God made for the enjoyment of humans and animals.
Trees can do so many different things in so many different ways. I love trees and you should too!

More about Monarchs and their amazing migration…

By Christina Harkleroad, coordinator,

Dani’s Dreams Outdoor Education Center

Drawing by Victoria Miano, second grade, Zion Lutheran School

With Monarch Migration reaching a peak, and the success of our recent Butterflies UPCLOSE event, this week in our Dani’s Dream Outdoor Education column, we will be exploring butterflies. How do they live? What do they eat? How are they born? All these questions and more will be answered.

Monarch butterflies are found all across America. Monarchs spend their winter months in Mexico, but during the summer, they fly to America and even Canada. They can fly thousands of miles to make it to their summer homes. Not sure what monarch butterflies look like? They have black and orange wings and usually have a wing span of 3 ½- 4 inches. Their bodies are black and they have 2 black antennas on their heads. Males have a large black spot on their hind wings and females do not. Monarchs normally eat flower nectar for food. Milkweed flowers, clovers, thistles, goldenrods, ironweed, and sunflowers are all popular foods for monarchs.

Drawing by Lillian Buist, second grade, Zion Lutheran School

Unfortunately, monarchs have a short life-span and live between 3-5 weeks on average. Because their lifespan is short, they must have multiple generations during the summer. By the end of the summer, the last generation must fly to Mexico for their over-wintering period. Monarchs flying north in the spring to the United States will find a mate. As they reach the U.S., the females will look for milkweed to lay their eggs. They eggs hatch after approximately 4 days and over a 2 week period, the caterpillars grow. Once they grow large enough, the caterpillars create a chrysalis or a cocoon and being the process of metamorphosis. The chrysalis is green with yellow spots and it provides protection for the caterpillar. After 2 more weeks, the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. This process continues until it is time for the butterflies to fly back to Mexico.

Right now the Monarchs are just heading into Texas and a few are crossing the border into Mexico. Track this year’s migration on Monarch Watch.

For a fun story to read and learn more about the Monarch Life Cycle, click on “The Adventures of Ralph Sean Green” on our home page.

In the next column, we will be exploring ways other countries are becoming environmentally-friendly.

Expanding Our Reach….


With innovative environmental education events and activities, more children than ever took advantage of the chance to make a difference in the world around them at Dani’s Dreams in 2014. Girl Scouts, daycare kids and elementary, middle and high school students and teachers created, learned and discovered during Dani’s Dreams events, sharing their knowledge with others on Dani’s Dreams website, Facebook page and in video reports, stories and posters.


How does Dani’s Dreams gardens grow?

useIMG_5510Quite well, thanks to Zion Lutheran Daycare children who provided the necessary TLC through planting, watering and weeding throughout the growing season. Dani’s Dreams provides children with hands-on learning experiences while developing responsibility and appreciation for the environment.







useDSCN7271VBS Weird Animals

Dani’s Dreams brought Weird Animals activities and a Family Educational Presentation to Zion Lutheran Vacation Bible School in June 2014. Students planted and took their seeds home to “Watch ‘Em Grow!” and made tree badges with their names or pictures and words that showed how they can take care of God’s world.


useDSC_0626Ooey, gooey Ooblick!

Zion Lutheran students took a moment to get in the goo at the Dani’s Dreams table during registration in August 2014. Donations to Dani’s Dreams makes learning moments like this possible. Dani’s Dreams will design a unique learning opportunity for your class, preschool, Scout Troop, daycare or other community group. Email or call 317-640-4430.


Our walk/run is all about growing dreams…

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Dani’s Dreams is all about the little things – seeds, children and moments that remind us all what’s really important. Our run walk is unique – we really do have the “coolest T-shirts on the planet”, designed for the eighth year by a Zion Lutheran student, Audrey Poole, but the walk/run day is a family celebration as well as an athletic event. We’re celebrating how one person’s life and dreams can continue to have a positive impact even after she leaves this earthly world. Children learn how truly powerful they are and what they can accomplish – whether it’s running around the track just one more time, and crossing the finish line with their great grandfather, seeing hundreds of people wearing your design, knowing your drawing is on the door of an educational facility, and above all, discovering and appreciating your small role in God’s awesome creation.

We so grateful for the opportunity to share Dani’s Dreams with the Zion Lutheran Church and School she loved so much and all of the support over these last eight years. We really believe we are just beginning to take root, and are so grateful for the New Palestine community who supported Dani’s Dreams through either signing up and attending the Run/Walk, or donating and volunteering. Thanks to all who signed up and came to walk, to run (even a few feet) to enjoy and to celebrate seeing children reach their dreams!


Cold Never Bothers Them Anyway…

RANA SYLVATICAFrom National Geographic:
It’s the ultimate deep freeze: Wood frogs in Alaska have set a record for cold endurance, staying as frozen as your microwave dinner for nearly seven months, a new study says.

Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks discovered that the amphibians survived all those months being chilled to an average temperature of 6°F (-14.6°C), including temperatures as low as 0°F (-18°C).
Find out more HERE!

Girl Scouts ‘dig’ Dani’s Dreams adventure

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Girl Scout Troop 1134 from St. Michael’s School in Greenfield took a whirlwind tour of Dani’s Dreams in Oct. 21, learning about local birds and their songs, checking out the fossils and then going on their own archaeological dig for authentic fossils of their own. Troop 1134 leaders are Maura Hutchinson and Stephanie Capen.