Green Care Guides Educational Interactions with Nature and Animals

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Nature is a great equalizer. Academic deficiency, a difficult personal history, physical disability, and other perceived life challenges are left behind in an environment where every child is welcome and can experience success. Green Chimneys students interact with nature as they learn about and become responsible for plants and animals while discovering new skills, a concept known as Green Care.

Children apply the lessons learned in the Green Chimneys Green Care setting to everyday life. The teamwork practiced in the barns, gardens and on the farm facilitates interactions with peers in other situations. Students learn patience while gardening or while training a calf. Watching a cactus bloom or a bee pollinate a sunflower inspires awe and curiosity and a deeper reverence for life. Green Chimneys incorporates Green Care in order to help students grow physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The horticulture and farm animal settings of Green Care awaken enthusiasm and support educational and therapeutic goals, as well as skills development:

•    Academic Goals
Nature-based programs integrate skills such as reading, writing, mathematical skills, social studies and history into “real life” non-academic situations. Reading a book in class may seem too hard, but reading the directions on a sheep feed bag seems important and manageable.

•    Process Goals
Nature- and animal-based activities help teach children how to master academics such as math, writing and reading. Learning how to measure animal feed, distinguish names of plants on a sign, or count the chickens in the coop can motivate children to attempt the process of learning.

•    Character Goals
Children learn to adapt their attitude to the demands of school and effectively and successfully function in an academic setting. Green Care is particularly effective for students who face challenges cooperating with school peers and following directions from staff.

•    Conceptual Thinking
Students apply academic concepts learned in the classroom to work in the garden and with animals as students measure garden beds, experiment with the effect of light on plant growth, measure feed and weigh the animals.

•    Motor Coordination
Students hone fine motor coordination as they carefully spread seeds across a flat of soil, work with pressed flowers, and handle and groom animals. Garden and animal work also strengthen gross motor skills and provide a productive release for energetic students who have trouble sitting still.

•    Emotional Regulation
Garden activities and work with farm animals stimulate the senses, provide a quiet refuge for contemplation and internal renewal, and enhance feelings of self-worth.

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