Here at Merry Lea, we work to support regional educators, local organizations and local school districts to deliver high quality environmental education to preschool and elementary students. We are a nature school host, but also train and encourage participating schools to utilize the outdoor spaces on their school property.

We believe nature-based early childhood education (NbECE) is a powerful tool to help children to grow, learn and develop. We want to get that tool into the hands of educators in our region through professional development opportunities.

Many of our workshops and webinars are available for participants to receive Professional Growth Points for attending and participating, and will be advertised when applicable.

Upcoming Opportunities

  • Cold Weather Clothing Management Webinar
    “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” – Alfred Wainwright
    While there might be a few exceptions to that statement, 95% of the time Merry Lea’s nature preschoolers are outside exploring in rain, snow, cold, sunshine and warmth. How do educators successfully keep children outside and prepared in all sorts of weather? Join Merry Lea’s nature preschool teacher(s) to learn their tips on suitable, accessible, and affordable clothing and layering.

    When: Tuesday, November 9  |  4 – 5 p.m.
    Register to receive the Zoom link

Observation Opportunities

  • Nature PreK Observation and Professional Development
    Ever wonder what a Nature Preschool actually looks like in action? See for yourself with this guided observation and professional development opportunity. This facilitated site visit not only includes live, in-person observation of children and teachers in our outdoor classroom, but includes accompanying learning experiences designed to create a memorable and impactful training for education practitioners. Leave inspired, with tangible steps for your own classroom or learning setting!

    When: Thursday, October 28  |  
    11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
    Register below
  • Custom dates are available for groups of 4 or more. Contact Marcos Stoltzfus at to schedule a visit.

Join the ECHO Network

The Early Childhood Hoosiers Outdoors (ECHO) Network connects teachers, administrators, and educators to each other! Interested in learning more about getting students outside? Join our monthly virtual meetings for exchanging ideas, resources, expertise and experiments, facilitated by Merry Lea. Click the ECHO Network button below to sign up!

Past Opportunities

  1. Taking School Outside: A Teacher Workshop on Forest Kindergartens and Nature Preschools
    Forest Kindergartens and Nature Preschools are a growing movement nationally and right here in our state. This four-day virtual workshop was open to educators interested in understanding the research, pedagogy and approach within these programs.
  2. Social Emotional Learning in Outdoor Education
    Merry Lea hosted a virtual professional development workshop focused on social emotional learning in outdoor education. This opportunity was for educators who are familiar with nature-based education and were looking for ways to better support their students.
  3. Forest Schools 101: Indiana Webinar
    You’ve heard of Forest Schools and Nature Preschools, but have you ever wondered what actually happens in these programs? This introductory webinar dug into buzzwords like ‘risky play’ and ‘emergent curriculum’ and offered insights into the pedagogy and philosophy behind this movement, especially for programs in northern Indiana. Watch the webinar here.
  4. Incorporating Emergent Curriculum Virtual Workshop
    Learning in the outdoors inevitably brings along unexpected surprises and discoveries! Encountering ice on a wetland or stumbling across animal bones can capture a child’s curiosity and spark a whole new line of classroom inquiry into weather, decomposition and more. This virtual workshop addressed how to incorporate student’s shifting interests into lessons through the use of emergent curriculum (a common theme in many nature-based programs) for any classroom.
  5. Risky Play Webinar
    Risky play is often a central component of nature-based programs…But what does it mean and how do you do it? Encounters with risk offer many beneficial opportunities for students to assess risk, build confidence, and develop socially and physically. This webinar reviewed appropriate risk, how to do a risk-benefit analysis and various facilitation tips. Participants left with an understanding of risky play terms and strategies for incorporating risky play into your setting. Watch the webinar here.