Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College is an 1,189-acre nature sanctuary located near Wolf Lake, Indiana. It is dedicated to:
- Providing a natural sanctuary for northern Indiana’s plants and animals
- Providing environmental education for people of all ages
- Providing a setting for re-creating opportunities that benefit the human body and spirit while not exploiting the land or excessively disturbing its ecosystems
About the land
Most of the ecosystems found in Northeastern Indiana are present at Merry Lea. Wetland ecosystems are a particular strength. Unique geological features such as peat bogs, a marl pit, and glacial gravel formations are also part of the landscape.
Management of the landscape is guided by a Christian theology of earthkeeping. We recognize that we are accountable to God for our stewardship of land in the same way we are accountable for other aspects of our lives. Visitors can observe management practices such as wetland, prairie, and savanna restorations. The Merry Lea Sustainable Farm showcases strategies for growing food without harming surrounding ecosystems.
About our environmental education
Merry Lea is a leader in environmental education. Over 5000 children and youth visit the nature center each year for innovative Pre-k to 12 programs such as Exploring the Merry Lea Sustainable Farm. Local children build long-term, life-changing relationships with the land through programs such as Kinderforest and PROWL (and after school club) which provide repeated exposure.
Merry Lea’s relationship with Goshen College enables it to provide two innovative undergraduate semesters: the Agroecology Summer Intensive and the Sustainability Leadership Semester. Students live on-site at Merry Lea’s Rieth Village and the entire nature center serves as their classroom. The semesters are integral parts of Goshen College’s Sustainable Food Systems major and Sustainability Studies major, but they are open to those from other majors and schools. Undergraduates also conduct research at Merry Lea.
The quality of Merry Lea’s land base makes it an ideal setting for the advanced students in the Master of Arts in Environmental Education program. The 11-month program covers pedagogy, natural history, leadership, environmental issues, land management and research methods. Practicum experiences include teaching in the pre-k to 12 programs and on Andros Island in the Bahamas.
Recreating body and spirit
Coming to know our place is not just a matter of the head; it involves the heart and soul as well. For those who take the time to explore, the land offers beauty, health and wholeness. For many, wild areas are a place they encounter the Divine. Unexpected gifts like a stab of light dappling the forest floor or an osprey on the wing can overwhelm a hiker with awe.