The fall sustainability program at Merry Lea will arrive next year with a name. Formerly known as the Sustainability Semester in Residence, the program is now called Sustainability Leadership Semester.

According to the Merry Lea website, the program has a focus in sustainable living, community engagement, health and leadership.

This opportunity is only available during the fall semester because it is the only time the weather is warm enough to allow students to live in Merry Lea’s sustainable housing.

During the semester, students earn 15 credits in classes such as Landscape Limnology and Faith, Ethics and Eco-justice.

The semester includes an eight-day canoe trip from Merry Lea to Lake Michigan. On the trip, students meet farmers and government officials and learn what their roles are in maintaining the watershed. Throughout the trip, the students sleep in tents and cook over a campfire.

Students also go on an overnight team-building trip to Deer Run in Allen County. While there, the students maneuver through the high and low rope courses.

They also get to work in small groups with local organizations to arrive at a solution for a real sustainability-related problem.

Hannah Geiser, a 2012 graduate, said her favorite part of the semester at Merry Lea was “Fun Friday’s.” Fun Friday’s were focused on learning sustainable living skills that are used in everyday lives. These activities include food preservation, beekeeping, honey harvesting and bread and cheese making.

Tom Hartzell, Merry Lea coordinator for residential programs and environmental science educator, said that many students say these activities are fun and educational.

Geiser said that she ate the best food of her life during the three months of the program and  that she especially liked the beet burgers.

Geiser said that the main lesson of the semester for her group of seven students was summed up into one word: WRD. This stood for “water runs downhill.” One can only begin to imagine the fun and lessons these students learned during their semester at Merry Lea, especially with a motto like “WRD.”