About Merry Lea

Our Mission

Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College is a 1,189-acre nature sanctuary located near Wolf Lake, Indiana. We are dedicated to providing:

  • Environmental education for people of all ages
  • A natural sanctuary for Northern Indiana’s plants and animals
  • A setting for 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 6,000 children and youth visit the nature center each year for innovative PreK to 12 programs such as Exploring the Merry Lea Teaching Farm, Rock Cycle, Exploring Nature, and more. Local children build long-term, life-changing relationships with the land through programs such as our Nature Preschool and PROWL (an after school program) which provides repeated exposure.

Merry Lea’s relationship with Goshen College enables it to provide an innovative undergraduate semester call the Sustainability 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 Sustainability Studies major/minor, 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 (MAEE) program. The 11-month program covers pedagogy, natural history, leadership, environmental issues, land management and research methods. Practicum experiences include teaching in PreK to 12 programs.

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.

Merry Lea’s trails are open to hikers from dawn to dusk. Events entice community members outdoors to experience re-creation of body and spirit in a variety of ways.