Imagine if you could live communally, study 1,189 acres of nature preserve, canoe down the Elkhart River and work together to explore sustainability techniques---all for academic credit. Starting in the fall of 2010, Merry Lea, Goshen College’s Environmental Learning Center, is introducing a unique semester called the Sustainability Semester in Residence that will include all of these features and more.

The Sustainability Semester will run from Sep. 7 to Dec. 7 at Merry Lea. Around six to fifteen students will be enrolled and live in two of the village’s cottages. These buildings make up Indiana's first platinum-rated LEED® facility, featuring toilets flushed by rainwater and solar-powered energy.

The semester will follow a curriculum focused on the dominant theme of “water.” Students will study water by exploring the Elkhart River watershed, discussing issues of water pollution and immersing themselves in Merry Lea’s surrounding ecosystems.

Though this theme will guide many of the classes, the curriculum is interdisciplinary in that five courses will be offered, covering 15 credits worth of a range of topics. These courses will be Landscape Limnology; Faith, Ethics and Eco-justice; Sustainability and Regeneration; and a research project. The classes will follow a problem-based learning technique, consisting of lectures, field trips, individual research and integration of student input.

Other additions to the program include a week-long canoe trip, community cooking with home-grown food, biking as dominant transportation and recreational activities within the curriculum.

The Sustainability Semester is designed for mainly third and fourth-years, but individual cases may vary. Any major or educational background is acceptable. To apply, contact Lisa Zinn at