Merry Lea’s nature-based early childhood programs are unique to the region and unique to the field as we deliver partnership-based programs.

Traditional classrooms are realizing the benefits of nature and taking students outside for student learning and growth. A key component of Kinderforest is multiple return visits to a natural location, at least once per month. Activities on a Kinderforest day connect to classroom topics, spark new ways of engaging this content and are linked to state standards.

We have partnered with local public, private and Montessori schools in creating and implementing several Kinderforest programs.

Our Partnership Model

Here at Merry Lea, we do not host our own Kinderforest. Rather, we train and collaborate with regional schools to implement their own programs. We create and implement Kinderforest programs based on the participating schools’ needs by customizing 6 tracks: curriculum development, Kinderforest visitation dates, professional development, planning and coordination, evaluation and family involvement.

We recognize that each school’s needs and settings are unique. Roles and tasks adjust monthly and yearly to ease participating schools into taking ownership of their Kinderforest programs in a sustainable way. For some schools, we are more hands-on: implementing and transferring program ownership over a 3-year period; while for other schools we are consultants: providing initial training and philosophy development, and support as needed.

We have partnered closely with Goshen College Lab Kindergarten and Central Noble Schools to implement Kinderforest programs over multiple years.

We have also offered various forms of support and resources to other schools and districts who are in various stages of exploring and implementing their individual programs. These include West Noble Schools, Oak Farm Montessori, Prairie Heights School District, Goshen Community Schools and others.

What does a typical day look like?

Rhythms are created by allowing students to develop routines around familiar activities such as sit spots, community circles, free exploration and other excursions. All throughout, teachers engage by providing appropriate stimuli, modeling curiosity and other support.


A sit spot* is a student-selected location in the outdoor classroom, which students visit at the beginning of each program day to sit and observe. This independent time is an opportunity for self-exploration, to develop self awareness and an appreciation for their space. Students are free to interact with their space, journal their thoughts, and notice what they hear, smell, see or feel.

* For more information and documents on sit spots, click here.