Our program includes exploring outdoors, animal tracking, plant and animal study, nature & sensory awareness, storytelling, edible & medicinal plants, sit spot, nature journaling, mentorship, empowerment, primitive skills & crafts, and lots of fun and play!

The Giving Gardens of Indiana Farm & Forest School aims to cultivate curiosity, compassion, and connection with the natural world. Studies show that time spent in nature increases attention span, ability to concentrate, self-esteem, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Children who spend more time outdoors and participate in cooperative group activities also tend to have healthier relationships with friends and family.

We support children to develop an appreciation for each other and the natural world so that they grow into dedicated leaders and environmental stewards in their communities.

Interested in contributing to this program? Here is how you can help!


We have partnered up with Flower Power Fundraising to offer seasonally, a chance to beautify your landscaping, home, or give a gift of flowers to someone special!
They have a wonderful variety to choose from at good prices.
By ordering from Flower Power fundraiser, you are supporting our nature immersion programming scholarship fund. Our scholarship fund offers tuition assistance to families who want to enroll their child in our Wild Willow Nature Preschool or our Farm & Forest School and need financial assistance. Giving Gardens of Indiana keeps 50% of proceeds. 100% of those proceeds go towards our scholarship fund, and you get a beautiful flower bed. It’s a win-win!
When you order the bulbs get sent directly to your home. Making it easy to get your beautiful flowers!
To order or send the link to someone who would love to order some fall bulbs, go to:
We appreciate your support and please share!! Our goal is $2000 for this season!

Check out our wish list items here.

Our Teaching Philosophy

We believe the natural world provides an exceptional classroom, inspiring wonder, independent learning and critical thinking. Our nature-based curriculum incorporates a hands-on, experiential approach and the development of the whole-child. We have a flexible inquiry-based facilitation style, and we follow the childrens’ lead much of the time.

Our daily routine is guided by the 8 Shields model of Mentoring and Exploring Nature with Children curriculum. Concepts are introduced through our flow of the day, which is designed to work with the natural inclinations and energies of the children and the environment. We follow what sparks connection and excitement for the children. Some days we follow the planned curriculum and on other days, we throw our “plan” out the window and follow the animal tracks we found after opening circle. We believe that children learn the most when they have a “spark in their eye” and are enthusiastic about something they discovered in nature. We ask them questions and study alongside them to deepen their curiosity and knowledge about the nature subject at hand.

Program Locations

Giving Gardens of Indiana
479 S. Towerview Drive, Columbia City, IN 46725
Morsches Park
1035 IN-205, Columbia City, IN 46725


Our Elementary program for children ages 6-12 is an introduction to the natural world with the opportunity for older students to mentor younger/newer students. Through hands-on activity in the garden, games, crafts, stories, song and adventure children learn how to take healthy risks in a safe way while developing a deeper connection to themselves, the natural world and their community. Skills introduced include plant identification, animal tracking, shelter building, fire safety (lighting a fire using various methods, fire structure, extinguishing a fire, the responsibility of using fire), bird language, sit spot, nature journaling, gardening, hiking, outdoor cooking, storytelling, and hazard awareness. 

Enrollment requirements:

  • Because we learn in an outdoor classroom without walls, students must be able to stay with the group and follow instructions most of the time.
  • Students must show respect towards peers, teachers, nature, and park/farm property.
  • Weather appropriate clothing must be worn and provided by the parents/or guardian.


Fall & Spring 10 week Programs: 

Fall begins: September 6th & 8th

Spring begins: March

  • Elementary – Tuesday’s 9am-12pm
  • OR
  • Elementary – Thursday’s 9am-12pm

Winter 6 Week Program:

Winter Begins: 

January 19th, 2023

  • Elementary-Thursday’s 9am-12pm (Morsches Park or Giving Gardens of Indiana)



Morning 9am (15-mins): Welcome and Drop-off

Morning 9:15  (15-mins): Opening Circle- 

Expectations, Movement activities, Class theme(lesson) and Days Gratitude

Morning 9:30 (15-mins): Bathroom break

Morning 9:45 (1 hr 30-min): Activity and or hike

​May include working in the garden, doing a nature craft, learning about a local plant or animal, or playing an active, nature-oriented game, outdoor skills, cooking

Wander the woods and farm; outdoor play may include free play, shelter building or working in the mud kitchen, sit spot, nature journaling

Morning 11:15 (15-min): Bathroom Break

Morning 11:30 (15-min): Snack Break

Morning 11:45 (15-min): Closing Circle: Talk about day/questions, gratitude

Morning 12:00: Goodbye and Parent Pick up


Registration-$50 per family (non-refundable)

  • Fall Semester 10 weeks-$380per child
  • Spring Semester 10 weeks-$380 per child
  • Winter Semester 6 weeks-$280 per child

Sibling discount-$25 off each additional child

To be considered for Moo-Over scholarship, please have letters turned in for Spring Semester by March 6th, 2022

We at Giving Gardens of Indiana want to make our programs available to everyone. If your family is in need of support with tuition you can write us a letter stating your need to be considered for tuition scholarship for Farm and Forest School Semesters. The tuition covers 50% of the semester you are applying for. You must re-apply every semester your child/ren will attend. You can email us your request at :

email:      givinggardensin@gmail.com

We are now offering the Moo-Over Scholarship

This scholarship is supported by Julie Hurd, owner/chef at Moo-Over.

She will pick 1 student each semester to pay 100% tuition for. To apply email your scholarship request letter to:

email:      givinggardensin@gmail.com

“The reason why I am sponsoring: Moo-Over wants to invest in a child’s future of education of nature and nutrition. Bringing a full circle creativity and passion.”

-Julie Hurd, owner/chef


If you or your organization/business would like to support our scholarship fund, you can make a donation here.

Farm & Forest School Teaching Mentors:

Jessica Burkett, Educational Director, Lead Teaching Mentor

Jessica has an educational background as a Forest School Director and Forest School teacher, Kamana Naturalist, personal training, yoga teaching, and natural movement, certified in nutrition, and thai yoga practitioner. She is the Outdoor Educator for TROY Alternative School for at-risk youth and currently homeschools her two teenage sons. She joined with Giving Gardens of Indiana as the Educational Director in the summer of 2019. She serves on the Tree Board in Columbia City. She is currently in Naturalist training through Wilderness Awareness School. Sharing her excitement for the world around us and nature with kids is what she loves to teach most. She is a teacher to the core! Jessica has been in love with gardening since her, and her husband were married and has grown something everywhere since (even when traveling in their schoolie!). Her passion for hiking has turned her into a forager and hobby herbalist. Taking care of the natural world and educating others in this area is one of her top priorities. She tries her best to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle and share that example with others. Because of this personal mission, she is the “Green Team” co-founder for the Ignite Group for their ultra trail running series, with a mission to help “Green” up the races so that there is less waste generated by the sporting events. That has also led her to be a local food advocate and share the importance of seasonal, local consumption in a sustainable way, because not only is it healthy for you, but it also supports the earth and the local community and families. Being a part of Giving Gardens as Educational Director is all of her dreams and experience rolled into one!

Violet Dreyfus, Assistant Teaching Mentor

I grew up in urban Fort Wayne, playing in my father’s garden, spending lots of time in local parks. I have always been passionate and mindful about caring for our land. I earned my BA in Business at IWU, but my tree hugging ways stuck with me. I began my journey with Giving Gardens Farm and Forest School as a mother with my two children, and I just couldn’t bring myself to leave.  I love the meaningful work of the farm, the conscientious team, the beauty of the earth, and the energy and wonder of the children. In my free time, I love to run in nature, dance awkwardly, do yoga, obsess over our weimaraner Mister, as well as hike and explore with my family. I’m so excited to continue to explore my own curiosity in the wild and learn alongside the children this year. I’m pretty certain that getting dirty and playing in the woods will be the best job ever!

Kyle Egolf, Assistant Teaching Mentor

Kyle grew up in Columbia City, IN where he always loved being in the woods. He could be found building forts, playing in the creeks, and swimming in the local ponds and lakes. Kyle comes from a family of farmers and grew around all sorts of livestock. He was also a 10 year member of the Whitley County 4-H program. Kyle moved to North Carolina in 2007 and took a job as Counselor at an Eckerd Youth Alternatives Wilderness Camp working 24/7 in the woods with at-risk youth. He met his wife who was a counselor as well and moved back to Indiana to begin their family in which they have 3 children. He recently has become an Indiana Master Naturalist and is also a Wilderness Skills Practitioner trained through Campcraft Outdoors which he is also a product ambassador for. Kyle loves to pass on the skills he knows to all ages, children and adults and the ability to continue his learning of new skills and ways that have maybe been or are on the verge of being lost in this technological world. Kyle enjoys camping, hiking, woodwork, drawing, poetry, and reading. You can also find Kyle on his Instagram at @kyle.goes.wild. 

Ashley Perry, Assistant Teaching Mentor

Ashley has an educational background in mathematics, elementary education, and a focus on early childhood development. She spent seven years in a classroom teaching from ages 3 to 15 years old until her oldest was born in 2017. She currently is homeschooling and plans on continuing for all of her children. She has two beautiful girls. Ashley enjoys being outside foraging or gardening. Her husband and her focus on supporting local small business especially through farmers markets. They recently started an organicly grown homestead with chickens, pigs, and bunnies with plans to add turkeys and a dairy cow. Ashley spends her summers organizing, planning, and gardening her 8,000 square foot garden. She is passionate about heirloom varieties that cannot be found in a local grocery store. They plan on adding a two acre orchard in the future. Ashley has spent that last year observing the Giving Gardens Farm and Forest program. She has enjoyed watching the structure and focus on nature based learning. She is very excited to join the team and continue with student development outside of the four classroom walls.

Megan Romary, Assistant Teaching Mentor

Megan Romary was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She currently lives in Columbia city with her fiancé. She has a degree in early childhood education from Ball State University and a master's certificate in Nature-Based Early childhood education from Antioch University. She, fortunately, grew up in front of the St. Mary's river on three acres, with parents who loved nature, and with that much property, there was no shortage of yard work. From the time she was little, her dad loved to show her deer tracks, take hikes back to the river, four-wheeler rides, tractor rides in leaves, etc., with her two little brothers. Her mom is an ever-learning Gardner and planner of many tent camping vacations, state park hikes, etc. It wasn't until she was older that she realized how fortunate she was to have two parents who both valued the outdoors.She had a very typical childhood growing up, going to a public school, watching probably too much TV and computer games, but having an outdoor space and experiences of play and imagination with a couple of neighbor kids was, she now realizes was invaluable and much of the reason she became a teacher and then became obsessed with teaching outdoors. It was grounding and she had a place to go when angry, confused, happy, thoughtful, bored, etc. As farm and forest families you see the benefits and she just wants to encourage your impact on your children by valuing nature and taking part in this community. Favorite color: Purple Favorite animal: Butterflies and cats and favorite thing about nature: Trees and their ability to heal and grow through adversity! Feel free to let her know your favorites and FYI, she also love dogs but if she had to pick one.....sorry! lol