This summer a dune appeared on Calvin’s campus.

For nearly two decades, Deanna van Dijk, professor of geology, geography, and environmental studies and head of the First- Year Research in Earth Sciences program, has been taking students to the Lake Michigan dunes for valuable hands-on research experience. But this year, she had a problem to solve: how to get her class to the dunes frequently throughout the semester given the risks associated with travel and COVID-19. She started thinking about ways to reduce risks when a bold idea crossed her mind.

“Some ideas you don’t know where they come from; my mind went, ‘Well, we are trying to bring students to the dunes, but could we bring dunes to students?’ It seemed like a really crazy idea, and I knew that to make that work it would be an awful lot of sand to place somewhere on campus,” she said.

A lot of sand? Try 300 cubic yards or 800 tons.

The sand was delivered by a local landscaping company to the east side of campus and spread over existing topography just northeast of the Prince Conference Center and given an artificial dune shape until the wind began pushing the sand into more natural shapes for research purposes.