The Next Indiana is right in front of us. It is our preschoolers, our kindergarteners. They are natural scientists, ready to explore. They are gathering sensory experiences: touching, testing, tasting, smelling, listening to the world we give them. I hope it will be full of beautiful sensory experiences: wildflowers and wild places, delicious fruits and vegetables, songs from our musicians, and loving, intriguing words. Let’s fill them with hope and energy and good health. Organizations such as the innovative Unity Gardens in South Bend—with its community gardens, food forests of fruit trees, native plant gardens, and educational programs—give me hope that this vision can come true.
The Next Indiana is elementary school kids, our preteens and teens. These growing bodies need to move. Perhaps we should all start the day as they did at one elementary school I visited: by marching briskly through the halls to a few fun songs! Those kids were so alive, relaxed, and inquisitive!
Then, let’s give our kids a ladder of scientific and mathematical experiences and knowledge. Indiana has many terrific educators pouring their hearts and souls, own money, and after school hours into giving kids opportunities to succeed. These educators, in schools, libraries, and museums, are the future, too. Let’s support them in their work and give them leadership opportunities.
The Next natural Indiana is developing, too. There are people planting native plant gardens, designed to feed hummingbirds and butterflies. There are people like the folks of Linton’s Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area, who are restoring wetlands for migrating sandhill cranes. There are tiny trees, planted by squirrels, popping up. Why not let some grow? Let’s keep our tree lines and windbreaks. Let’s plant new ones, to help farmers conserve our soil and reduce the hazards of snow blowing across winter roads.
An excellent future for Indiana lies in our reach. The seeds of that work rest in our words. We need to look around and rediscover what is outstanding already. Let’s raise it up by observing closely and pointing out the beauty and value of what is here. Let’s write thank you notes to park boards and fan letters to farmers. Every working hand, whether it is writing new laws or assembling cars or picking vegetables should receive recognition and a fair shake.
Bolstered and enlivened by appreciating this state’s treasures, we need to push ourselves to face our failures and areas that need improvement. The world is far bigger than we often recognize and we’re not going to succeed by closing in on ourselves. We need diversity of species, of ideas, of people—a varied, beautiful palette—to paint the best possible future for Indiana.
April Pulley Sayre is an award-winning author/photo-illustrator best known for her lyrical, read aloud science. Her sixty-five books include Raindrops Roll, Best in Snow, and Rah, Rah, Radishes: A Vegetable Chant, which were all photographed in Indiana. She created The Indiana Chant featured on bicentennial posters at libraries around the state. This post was written as part of a series celebrating the Next Indiana Bookshelf, a program of Indiana Humanities and the Indiana Center for the Book. “The Indiana Chant” is featured on the shelf. Views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of Indiana Humanities or Indiana Center for the Book. Check the Indiana Humanities blog throughout 2016 for additional posts by authors detailing their vision for the Next Indiana.