Nature Discovery & Service Learning Programs for Youth

The mission of the Junior and Teen Indiana Master Naturalist (IMN) program is to bring together natural resource specialists with young people, ages 9 to 17 years, to foster an understanding of Indiana’s plants, water, soils and wildlife, and promote volunteer service in local communities.

Merry Lea hosts two Junior & Teen IMN program series in collaboration with Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site.

These programs feature various nature topics for local youth to discover Indiana’s outdoor world through hands-on activities, outdoor investigations, volunteering, and learning from local experts across different career paths, interests and organizations.

Junior & Teen IMN Programs

1. Junior & Teen Indiana Master Naturalist Summer Day Camp

This weeklong summer day camp includes activities like canoeing glacial lakes, exploring Merry Lea Sustainable Farm, fishing, learning about current research projects, removing invasive species and more.

When: July 18 – 22

2. Junior & Teen Indiana Master Naturalist Series

During the academic school year, Merry Lea and Gene Stratton-Porter host a monthly 9-session series, with each session focusing on a different nature topic. Topics often include geology, zoology, botany, nature photography, interpretation, wetlands and more.

When: Sept – May | Third Thursday each month

See below for the current sessions for the 2021-22 school year. More details coming soon for the 2022-23 school year.

Junior & Teen IMN 2021-22 Series

1. Trees

The marvelous world of trees is diverse in function, characteristics and uses. Students will become familiar with the major parts of woody plants and learn how to use a field guide to identify common trees of Indiana.

Session Expert: John Woodmansee | Purdue Extension – Whitley County & Kaitlyn Sproles | Merry Lea
September 16
Location: Merry Lea Learning Center | 2388 S 500 W | Albion, IN 46701

2. Native Plants

Native People have been using plants across the landscape for thousands of years. Join a local plant expert in learning about Miami history and culture, with special emphasis on her love, the plants native to our area, and their uses for food, medicine and everyday functions.

Session Expert: Dani Tippmann | Citizen of Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and native plant expert
 October 7
Location: Merry Lea Learning Center | 2388 S 500 W | Albion, IN 46701

3. Geology & Soils

Dig into northeastern Indiana’s rich geological history! Students will discover the impact glaciers had on this area by seeing glacial activity up close. Hike down an esker, move through layers of topsoil and glacial till to find a peat bog, explore and identify rocks in an abandoned gravel pit, and use models to understand how glaciers changed Indiana’s landscape.

Session Experts: Merry Lea graduate students
 November 4
Location: Merry Lea Glacial Retreat Center | 1799 S 650 W | Kimmell, IN 46760

4. Owls

Students will learn all about our native owls, where to find them and their roles in our ecosystem from a local expert. An up-close look at owls and their various natural adaptations will be included in this lesson.

Session Expert: Ron Sides | Local Volunteer with Soarin’ Hawks, IMN and Indiana Master Gardener programs
 December 2
Location: Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site | 1205 Pleasant Point | Rome City, IN 46784

5. Interpretation 101

Interpretation blends science and art to inspire awareness and build important connections between people and our natural and cultural resources. Students will discover different interpretive techniques that are used to make personal connections to the resources they love.

Session Expert: Carley Cornhill | Chain O’Lakes State Park
 January 6
Location: Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site

6. Nature Photography

Become a nature photographer! Students will learn the basics of photography including composition, the rule of thirds, natural vs. artificial lighting, symmetry and patterns. We will use smartphone cameras (or digital cameras) to capture images in a hands-on photography experience. At the end of the session, students will learn to look at the natural world through a different lens!

Session Experts: Heather DeLorenzo | Chain O’Lakes State Park & Randy Myers | local nature photographer
 February 3
Location: Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site

7. Natural Resources Careers Panel

What careers are out there in the field of Natural Resources? What can students do now to help prepare them for this career? Students will become familiar with natural resource jobs at the local, state and federal levels and their areas of responsibility.

Session Experts: Panel of various professionals: Purdue Extension – Noble County | Soil & Water Conservation District | Indiana State Parks | Goshen College | and more
 March 3
Location: Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site

8. Zoology

Join the Merry Lea graduate students as you learn all about the fantastic zoology found at Merry Lea’s Luckey’s Landing with this surprise topic!

Session Experts: Merry Lea graduate students
 April 14
Location: Merry Lea Luckey’s Landing | 2300 S Stone St. | Albion, IN 46701

9. Wetlands & Graduation Day

Immerse yourself in a wetland ecosystem by putting on waders to dip for small animals, identifying these critters and hiking around the wetland. Throughout each activity, students will be able to recognize physical and biological components of each wetland type and the important functions of wetlands.

Session Experts: Merry Lea graduate students
 May 5
Location: Merry Lea Farmstead | 2152 S 425 W | Albion, IN 46701

Program Details for 2021-22 Series

Ages & Times

Junior IMN: ages 9 – 12 
Teen IMN:
ages 13 – 17 

All program sessions occur 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Junior and Teen IMN age limits are determined by the student’s age as of May 5, 2022.


Cost: $100/child for all 9 sessions
This covers books, snacks, patches for completion awards, administrative fees and various program supplies. Fee is due in full upon registration and is non-refundable.

Sign-ups: Students must register for the entire series (all 9 sessions), not individual programs.

Student Expectations to Receive Certification

  • Participate in at least 7 out of 9 course sessions
  • Complete volunteer service with a local or state natural resources organization
    • Junior IMN: 6 hours
    • Teen IMN: 12 hours
  • Complete a pre- and post-survey during the first and last course sessions

COVID-19 Policy

Masking is optional indoors and outdoors according to individual choice and health needs. Please be kind and respectful in all settings, and honor everyone’s choices about masking.

Register Now

All offerings are aligned to Indiana Academic Standards, and are designed to support your student’s academic and outdoor learning. Please review our Scheduling Policies page with any questions about scheduling a program, cancellation policies, program logistics and registration.