More than Chores: Weekly Sessions on the Farm Help Foster a Child’s Interests While Supporting Therapeutic Growth

November 30, 2016

It’s been nearly two years since Green Chimneys Farm Program Facilitator Cody Scott began working with student Sebastian. During most weekly sessions, they head to the Teaching Barn to help care for livestock – all part of our Learn & Earn program which builds discipline, confidence and life skills, and establishes the relationship between work (learn) and payment or reward (earn) for students. Sebastian is one of nearly 170 Green Chimneys children who are actively part of the program this semester – enjoying one-on-one time with staff each week while they gain responsibilities and tend to chores on our farm.

And while the Learn & Earn program builds a sense of responsibility, in actuality, it’s one of several therapeutic education programs that enrich the Green Chimneys experience for children who face social, emotional, behavioral and learning challenges. For some of our school students, impulsivity and engaging in behaviors for attention may be hurdles. Being aware of boundaries, adhering to safety practices and listening to directions could be issues too. Experiencing tangible successes creates a foundation for students to develop the coping skills that will be critical to their lifelong journey. And students’ time on the farm (exploring how to properly use equipment, leading walks with animals and caring for their well being) often reinforces what students are working on with their clinicians.

Initially, progress in Sebastian’s Learn & Earn sessions was slow. Cody would spend the first few minutes of each session discussing the various rules of how to behave around the equipment and the animals. When intermittent issues arose, Cody participated in a meeting with Sebastian’s treatment team to discuss strategies to help teach Sebastian how to be safe at the farm. Sebastian had a desire to learn and a curiosity about the animals around him. A true turning point came when Cody collaborated with Sebastian’s social worker, Hilary Landman. Together, a rule book was created to help Sebastian understand which behaviors are okay at the farm. Sebastian was proud of the book and shared it with everyone he worked with.

During subsequent Learn & Earn sessions, Cody noticed small adjustments in Sebastian’s behavior. He began to act empathetically towards the animals. He started to view situations and interactions from their perspective. Sebastian was even smiling much more and seemed to genuinely enjoy their time with the animals. He was finally able to navigate the farm with confidence while being mindful of his own impact on the animals’ lives. And then, the pace of progress quickened.

Fast forward to today and Sebastian’s Learn & Earn sessions with Cody look quite different. Recently Sebastian’s growth was recognized when Green Chimneys farm staff honored him with the Farm Kid of the Month Award. “To say Sebastian deserves it is an understatement,” explains Cody. “At the farm he is compassionate, affable, and extremely hard-working. I believe Sebastian’s success is a product of these positive qualities; he views his Learn & Earns not simply as a job, but as an opportunity to help and care for another living thing.” And despite how obvious it is to staff that Sebastian has come so far, Sebastian continues to look for areas in which he can improve. “To know Sebastian looks forward to working with me every week – and to witness the progress he’s made – it’s inspiring.”

This holiday season, please consider supporting Green Chimneys programs which help children and animals succeed. Learn more