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One For The Books

Becoming the education director at the Environmental Learning Center is another chapter in Heather Stapleton’s extraordinary story.

Photo by Denise Ritchie

Photo by Denise Ritchie

The first time a book signified a distinct chapter in her life, Heather Stapleton was in the sixth grade. The book 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth was a present from her mother, a former park ranger at Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana, who went on to work in environmental compliance for Verizon Communications. 

Heather didn’t know she would follow in her mother’s footsteps. In fact, being mindful of the environment just seemed natural. She grew up amid cornfields and forests with four brothers keen on exploring. Together, they roamed until the street lights came on – their silent call home.

Sometimes their wandering had a little direction. “We always recycled, even when it wasn’t the cool thing to do, even when we didn’t have curbside pickup,” says Heather. “My brothers and I would take a little red wagon around and pick up newspapers from the neighbors.”

Heather learned about gardening from her grandfather, her Poppie, who canned tomatoes, salsa and jellies. She also took matters into her own hands, riding her bike to and from her first job at a strawberry farm when she was 12 years old. She and her brothers enjoyed freshwater boating and rafting; and when she joined the Girl Scouts, she discovered camping, eventually becoming a counselor. 

Surprisingly, Heather envisioned herself as more of an indoor ambassador of the Earth. “I thought eventually I would be doing something like helping other countries shape environmental policy,” she says. “You know – really highfalutin’, really high-minded, very serious kinds of things.” She laughs. “I’m glad I’ve learned to take myself a little less seriously. I think I have more fun than I would have, had I ended up on a different track.”