Erin Houlihan with students at Violet Glen, an outdoor program that inspired Humble Oak. Photo provided

EAST TROY — A unique outdoor-based educational program hopes to begin nurturing students this fall in a forest near East Troy.

The Humble Oak Outdoor Learning and Arts Collective is a start up non-profit, outdoor learning center that will provide nature-based programming to connect individuals of all ages more deeply to themselves, the land and the greater community.

The program recently agreed to lease an 80-acre forest near East Troy where classes will be held in a yurt, according to Anna Zinga, one of six local women behind the effort.

Programs for each age group are geared toward families who home school their children as a way to supplement their learning.

The seed was planted during the pandemic when Zinga and Jodi Janovec were teaching at Violet Glen a nature-based program begun by Erin Houlihan.

The group became inspired to begin planning a 100-percent outdoor learning space after seeing the success of Violet Glen.

The three women will be responsible for Humble Oak’s progamming.

“As a person who thrives outside, loves working with my hands, finds so much joy in the life forces of children and is interested in being a helpful elder, Humble Oak provides the
perfect vessel to hold all of these passions and hopes,” says Houlihan.

Janovec agrees.

“My focus is growing the fiber handwork and related components of the program and supporting the humble beginnings of Humble Oak,” she said.

Other founding board members include:

  • Chanda Droske, a local farmer, mother and artist with a degree in Fine Arts Ceramics and Art Education.
  • Allison Pratt-Szeliga, currently the Corn Breeding Program Manager at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.
  • Rebecca Rohrer, who has a biology degree from UW-Stevens Point and a masters in nursing from UW-Milwaukee and has spent time organic farming, milking cows and goats and raising many types of fowl.

Zinga says programming will be for children ages 3-14, for all of Walworth County and beyond. 

“We hope to extend our programming to include adults and the local public schools,” Zinga said. 

The group currently is fundraising through a GoFundMe page, and will hold two upcoming fundraisers.

“What a journey Humble Oak has been and continues to be,” Zinga said. “I feel like Humble Oak is a combination of all of my life passions.”

Humble Oak expects to begin public enrollment in May for classes starting in the Fall of 2022.


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By Staff Report

Walworth County Community News