Student Essays

with photos by Katy Beck (teacher)

Indiana Dunes

Yesterday our class went to the Indiana Dunes. The first thing we did was get off the bus and go and meet the park ranger who was our tour guide for half the day.

After we got off the bus we went to a Marram Grass Dune and started testing. We tested the percolation in different habitats and places, most of them were different but not by much. We tested at dunes, wetlands, oak forest, and beach.
We walked through a lot of places, and not one was the same. Our guide showed us plants and I saw she was also very nice.
On the wetlands it was the coolest, and the Savanna was the warmest. The plant that I thought was neat was King Solomon's Seal. Then we left and went on the bus to a picnic ground, and ate lunch, then we had a P.E. because Mr. Sitz came with. Then came our next guide J.P. He took us into the dunes and down Mt. Baldy.
First we went into a blowout and talked about how Lake Michigan was formed from a giant glacier. Then we climbed to the top of Mt. Baldy and he taught us about a tree that survives under sand.
Then we went down Mt. Baldy. Most people rolled down. I was one of them. I hope to go back there sometime with my family.
I will never forget this field trip of my 5 th grade year.

P.S. While we were there we saw some animals.

Indiana Dunes

June 2, 1993 we took a long journey to Indiana to visit the Indiana Dunes Lake Shore Park. It was one of the most exciting field trips we've taken this year.
First a girl ranger named Kristin took us through the wetlands. (It sure was wet because it was raining.) She explained to us different ways to tell if a plant is poison ivy or not. She said poison ivy had partially a red stem, and it has 3 leaves, she said it was all over the dunes. So the whole trip I was afraid I would step on it.
There were many many different habitats at Indiana Dunes. There were wetlands, beaches and other Dunes. We learned how to use some tools that had to do with measuring the wind direction and temperature, moisture in the soil, and so on. One habitat we stopped at was the wetlands. We stopped to do the measuring stuff and Kristin mentioned that there could be poisonous snakes where were were, and I was real happy to hear that. We had a great time in the first half anyway.

Essay fragment
On June 2, 1993 my class and I went on a field trip. This was not just an ordinary field trip. We went all the way to Indiana. We left at 7:00 A.M. and had to be at school by 6:45 A.M. At school we made sure that we had everything and waited for the people who were late. We went on a long trip and finally got there. Of course we missed a turn off or two but we still made it in time to catch the ranger.
First we went to the marram grass dunes. We talked about how the marram grass held the dunes together.

We got equipment to find out the air temperature, ground temperature, light intensity, soil moisture, wind speed, wind direction, soil temperature, and the percolation.
Measurement kit and notebook

Essay fragment
Yesterday we went to the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore. The nearest town is Chesterton. The dunes were going to be filled with steel mills and power plants, but a man named Paul Douglass made it a National Lake Shore. The dunes have the 4th most different kinds of species of animals and plants.

Essay fragment
Indiana Dunes was saved and kept as preserve by Paul Howard Douglass. He worked very hard to save the dunes and we all thank him. This is one of his quotes

When I was young I wanted to save the world.
In my middle years I would have been content to save my country.
Now I just want to save the Dunes.


Succession is when over hundreds of years something changes in a pattern. Our class went to Indiana to visit the Indiana Dunes. There we learned about succession. We also saw it.
We got there and our guide showed us marram grass, the first part of succession on a dune. We learned that marram grass is a strong grass that holds the dune together. After we walked a little farther we came to another part of succession, which is the edge where the sand gets a little soil in it and poison ivy starts growing there and different types of plants, too.

Students leave dune area for Oak forest

We walked a little farther and got to the oak savanna. There we saw lots of trees and different plants. We also saw lots of animal holes there. Then we walked down a hill to the wetlands. There we saw lots of skunk cabbage, which smells like a skunk, and a type of fern called cinnamon fern.

Cinnamon fern is a fern with a cinnamon colored rod going up the middle. Then we walked up the hill and down another and came to the woods again. Now we have followed all the steps of succession.
Succession is a wonderful thing to learn about. I learned a lot of things about it at the dunes.
I hope you have too.


A habitat is a place with food, water, shelter, and air that an animal lives in. At Indiana we learned about it. I hope you will too.
When we got to the dunes, our guide showed us the first part of habitats. A marram grass dune. A marram grass dune is a home to many buts and animals. Some of the bugs are ants and mosquito. some of the animals were snakes and birds.
We went on to the next habitat, the edge of the woods. There we saw many bugs such as catapillars and inch worms. One of the animals I saw there were different types of birds. At the next habitat, the oak savanna, where I saw lots of types of birds, and I found a big hole that a woodchuck or badger could have lived in. After that we went to the wetland. There we saw lots of mosquito. Snakes also lived there. I hope you learned as much as I did.
Habitats are everywhere. They are beautiful. I hope to go there again.

Indiana Dunes

On June 2, 1993 we went to the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore, Chesterton. we saw and studied many of the habitats there.
First we went to the Marram Grass Dunes. There we measured the wind speed and direction, lightness, percolation rate, soil moisture, air temperature, and wind temperature. Next we went to the oak forest area, and did the same. There we also spotted the first of many poison ivy plants. Next we went to the wetlands, then the oak savanna. Last we went to the beach. Last for the morning that is!
1 of our charts (we had 2) turned out like this.

Dune / Marram Grass / Wetlands / Oak Savanna / Beach


Indiana Dunes now has many many habitats, but it didn't used to . . .
All the habitats used to be sandy dunes. In time the wind blew the sand further and further from the ocean's floor. Soon it began to cover up plants, and only some survived.
After time the dead plants and the sand began to form a soil rich enough for some plants to live in. Then the soil got rich enough for more and more plants to live in, forming habitats.
Lake Michigan began as a glacier. Over time the glacier began to melt. As it melted it pushed the land then fell back, forming the dunes. Soon it all melted and formed the great lake, Lake Michigan. This period was the succession of Lake Michigan.

Indiana Dunes

A few days ago we went to the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore in Chesterton, Indiana.
We left our school at around 7:00 A.M. We left searching for many things such as habitats, types of plants, and to help our nature skills. Our main reason to go there was to look at habitats of animals and plants.
It was a very gray day with a little sprinkle of rain coming down. We were greeted by one of the park rangers. She introduced herself and then we were on our way.
We took our first measurements at a marram grass dune. They call it that because it has marram grass all over it. She first showed us how to work these tools. Some of them were complicated, but most were very simple. They all measured wind, ground temperature, air tempterature. We saw some holes in the ground and we thought it was a snake hole but it was a mole hole too.
Then she introduced us to poison ivy and what it looks like. And then we continued on our trip.
She introduced us to very many plants such as blackberry, blueberry and many more.
Then we went down to the wetlands and took our measurements. The wind stayed the same at 0 but the water percolated a lot slower. And we saw many different plants and it gave me the feeling of a rain forest.
Then we went up to the beach and there was a small dune that we all jumped off and took our measurements. There was a lot more wind. It was about 4 mph. Then we walked back to the entrance and left the premises to eat lunch at Mount Baldie.
After ending our lunch we met our guide Jean Pierre. And we went on with our hike. As we neared the summit we hopped into a small hole and Jean Pierre told us about succession.
Succession is when the trees at the bottom start forming to the top of the dune and go all over the dune. This can only happen if people don't walk over it or have parties. Lake Michigan was formed by a big glacier that was a mile high. It moved very slowly crushing everything and forming a lake.
Then we walked up to the summit and rolled down and ended our trip.
In that day we had learned a lot like succession or how habitats aren't only for animals, but plants too.


Yesterday we went to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore near Chesterton, Indiana. Some of the habitats we saw there were dunes, oak savannas, oak forests, and beaches and wetlands.
When we went on a hike through the dunes, we saw very few plant species. some of the ones we saw were marram grass, which sends out very long roots (about 20 feet) and has them sprout in different places in the dune. We also saw small trees and flowers (wild) on the dunes.
When we went to the oak forest we saw bracket ferns, poison ivy, and harder soil.

Ranger standing in ferns

Because of the harder soil, we found percolation (the process of how long it takes for water to enter the ground) was much slower going into the ground.
When we went to the wetlands we saw lots of vegetation like grape vines, skunk cabbage, wild flowers, blueberries, blackberries, and wild geranium. It was cooler there than any place else, and it also has hard soil. (There were also trees there!)
Later we went to the beach. We saw very little vegetation, but lots of sand. It only took about 30 seconds to percolate! (In the oak forest it took about 4 1/2 minutes to percolate!)
The air and ground temperature were always around 60 degrees F.
In the Oak savanna we saw lots of grass and wild flowers, but very few trees.

Lupine in Oak savanna

In the Oak Savanna the wind speed was at 6 mph.


On June 2nd 1993 we went to the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore. We saw dunes, wetlands, Oak forest, Oak savanna, and Beach. Here are some of the things we learned.
At the dunes I saw a lot of sand, but we also saw some plants. I saw one that was a little yellow flower called a Puccoon,but the one thing I saw the most of was Marram Grass. Marram Grass spreads (reproduces) by sending out long roots about 20 ft. long in all directions, that eventually come up through the soil.
At the Oak forest we saw a kind of fern called Bracket Fern, a kind of tree called Sassafras, that smelled like shampoo, a Slippery Elm Tree, and a kind of plant called Poison Ivy, which if you touch it, the oil on it will irritate your skin, but to all other animals, it is eatable, and lots of birds eat its berries that it grows.

Students in Oak forest


At the wetlands, it was 3 degrees cooler than anyplace else, and it had a plant called Skunk Cabbage, that smelled like a skunk, a kind of fern called Cinnamon Fern, that looked like a Bracket fern, but had a little stick coming out of it that looked like cinnamon. we also saw there blueberries, poison ivy, blackberries and a grape vine. (And a small purple wildflower.)
At the Oak savanna, I saw Goats Beard, Oak trees, more poison ivy, and lots of ferns, like in the other habitats.
At the beach, all there was to see was a steel mill, Lake Michigan, and big sand dunes with no plants on them. I learned that the Cottonwood Tree can be buried with sand, and still live. Unlike any other tree in the world. I also learned that the dune moves by being blown by the wind.
At Indiana Dunes we took tests on percolation of water, ground temperature, air temperature, wind speed, and the direction the wind is blowing. The percolation of water was diverse, some places 10 minutes for percolation, others only 30 seconds for percolation. The ground and air temperature was always the same (60 degrees F) but at the wetlands where it was 3 degrees cooler (57 degrees F) The wind speed was diverse, some places 6, other places 0. The direction of the wind was always the same, blowing from the North West, to South East.
Leeward -- The side of the dune not facing the wind.
Windward -- The side of the dune facing the wind.
Succession -- When after a blowout, a dune gets a new habitat over 100s of years.
Blowout -- When the soil gets loose enough in a habitat, and the habitat is blown away by the wind.

Essay fragment
The Oak savanna needs to be burnt about every year to keep it from turning into an Oak forest. It turns into an Oak forest by the Oak trees dropping seeds and the trees grow and block out all the light.

Essay fragment
The way the beach evolved is called geologic history. The lake was formed by glaciers. The glaciers kept building up until there was a huge deep hole. Then it filled with water and became a lake.

Essay fragment
The Indiana dunes were formed when a huge glacier, a mile into the sky, pushed and pushed against the land until it build up the dunes. Then it went backwards and formed Lake Michigan.
A forest grew over half the dunes because Marram grass decomposes. It turns into soil so there's a thin layer of soil on the sand where everything grows.


Wednesday we went to the Indiana Dunes. We started at the Marram Grass Dunes. The ranger showed us how to measure with the tools. The first thing is the percolation rate. You put an empty can in the ground then a paper cup filled with water, and dump the water in the can so it can soak in the ground. Then you time it the second it is filled with water. Then stop the timer when it is done soaking. There are also other measurements such as the brightness of the sun. You point it up to the sky and look at the dial. Also there is an air temperature measurement.
We also measured at the wetlands. It took a lot longer to percolate
the water because the ground already had lots of water in it.
We measured at the beach where it took 20 seconds to percolate. That is because it is dry there and the water from the lst time it rained is still soaked down deep and has room at the surface for more water.
At the Four Dunes there are flowers because the sun can seep through the trees and give sunlight to make plants and flowers grow. The air temperature is the warmest because the sun can seep through the trees. The brightness of the sky is bright in the Four Dunes.

Essay fragment
Another thing there that moves are the sand dunes. There are two sides to every sand dune. The windward, and the leeward sides. The windward is the side that is facing the wind, and is often very steep because it has been blown that way by the wind. The leeward is the exact opposite. The way the dunes move is when the sand from the windward side is blown over the top to the leeward side. Then the sand rotates around, pushed by the wind, and this way, the dune can move about five feet per year.

Essay fragment
Mount Baldie was named by the limited plant life on it. It is also called smoking dune, because when the wind comes it looks like smoke is coming from the dune.
Our guide told us about the wind moving the dunes which could cover trees and once covered a town. He also told us about the stable dunes and the moving dunes. a stable dune has trees and plants growing on it and has formed soil. A moving dune has none of that except maybe a few unstable plants.

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