Living in a Learning Community

In the past thirty years, the field of education has shifted from an emphasis on individuals as learners to an understanding of learning as a communal endeavor. “Learning community” is one of the key terms educators use to speak about the web of relationships that enables genuine learning and social change to take place. This is a fluid term with multiple definitions, but here’s what it will look like within Merry Lea’s  Sustainability Leadership Semester:

• You’ll be immersed in the ecosystems you’re studying day and night. Taking water quality measurements is one way to get to know a wetland; living nearby and watching birds and animals on an evening stroll is another.

• You’ll be part of a cohort of no more than fifteen students, each taking the same block of courses.

• Your problem-based coursework will require a great deal of collaboration. Part of the challenge is to figure out what strengths everyone brings to the tasks and how to get the most out of each person. The goal is a culture that supports everyone’s learning.

Community Living

  • Community living is a critical part of the SLS learning experience. Establishing community can be a challenging endeavor that takes work and willing participation.  Students need to be prepared to work together as a group to make decisions and work through issues that arise.  Students will participate in cooking, cleaning, and garden harvesting as part of community life.  Students will take turns sharing leadership responsibilities for the group so they  will need to be prepared to both lead and follow.   This type of program functions best when all partcipants, students and staff, are committed to the group experience.  It is a chance for us all to think less about our individual needs and more about the needs of the whole community.
  • Merry Lea is located in Wolflake, Indiana, in a rural agricultural region halfway between Goshen and Fort Wayne.  Community life will be relatively quiet with lots of opportunities to engage with the 1000 plus acres of land that Merry Lea has to offer - activities such as canoeing, hiking, biking, and swimming are available on a whim! While fast paced nights with city lights are not a part of the SLS, nearby towns offer shopping for groceries and other goods, as well as social spots including a bowling alley, a coffeehouse, and a movie theatre.
  • You will all live on site at Merry Lea in two of the cottages that make up Rieth Village. Here, you’ll experience a setting where a great deal of thought has already gone into sustainable living. Rieth Village earned Indiana’s first platinum LEED® rating from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008. You’ll flush your toilet with rainwater, heat your coffee with solar power and stay cool with the help of white metal roofs and careful building orientation. Each cottage has four rooms, two bathrooms and an inviting common living area.
    tomatoes in sink
  • You will share household tasks with an eye toward sustainability. What will your group do with used batteries? How can you keep your transportation footprint to a minimum? How can you use all the squash and tomatoes coming out of the kitchen gardens?