Enchanted Forest Allows Native Species to Tell Their Stories

LaToya Gilbert, a graduate of Merry Lea’s Master’s in Environmental Education program, portrayed a firefly in the Enchanted Forest while she was a student.

The Enchanted Forest at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, Wolf Lake, Ind., makes Northern Indiana a bit more magical each autumn. The nature center offers children and their favorite adults a night hike where animals talk. Friday and Saturday October 26 and 27, 7 to 8:30 p.m. are the 2018 dates.

Volunteers costumed as a variety of native animals talk with children about what their lives are like. The animals discuss favorite foods, fears, habitat and other aspects of their lifestyles. Children’s questions provide the wild cards that keep actors doing their homework. The kerosene lanterns that the guides carry lend a sense of old-fashioned adventure to the event.

This year, two lucky volunteers have a special role: portraying Indiana’s new state insect. The legislation passed in March 2018 due to the efforts of children at Cumberland Elementary School in West Lafayette, Ind. Over a four-year period, the children wrote letters and gathered signatures on behalf of the Say’s firefly, Pyractomena angulata.

 Merry Lea’s 2018 Enchanted Forest will also feature the raccoon, skunk, opossum, snapping turtle, toad, great-horned owl and monarch butterfly. All of these animals are found on Merry Lea’s property. Snacks and live music round out the evening.

Students in Merry Lea’s master’s in environmental education program will portray most of the animals. The degree program includes study of environmental issues, natural history, leadership, pedagogy, land management and research methods. Merry Lea’s degree is distinctive in that it includes an international component in the Bahamas and can be completed within one calendar year.

The Enchanted Forest will take place at Merry Lea’s Farmstead Barn Site, 2152 S 425 W Albion, Ind. It does not require advance registration. Pay $3.50 per person at the door.