Under the supervision of a licensed teacher with a specialized background in horticulture, practical lessons in the garden, enhance and reinforce theoretical learning in the classroom. Students gain respect for nature, manual work, individuals and the community, and have opportunities to grow plants, harvest vegetables, and prepare meals using produce out of the garden. And with School Gardens on both the Brewster and Clearpool campuses, as well as the multi-acre Boni-Bel Organic Farm, there are ample spaces for students to get their hands dirty.

Our garden instructors collaborate closely with the school’s Life Skills class where students cook the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors and incorporate healthy eating habits. During the spring, summer and fall months, students participate in planting, maintenance and harvesting of the crops. Students also learn about aeroponics in a vertical garden that grows lettuce, tomatoes, and many herbs, connecting the science and benefits of growing plants this way. In the winter, students learn about the scientific side of horticulture, including plant anatomy and seed propagation in our 600-square-foot greenhouse.

Students also work directly with our Institute Interns who observe and participate in classes and facilitate one-on-one activities. Interns guide therapeutic and recreational activities such as making beeswax candles, mixing organic lotions, drying culinary herbs and readying fresh chicken eggs for sale to the public.

  • Practical lessons in the garden enhance and reinforce theoretical learning.

  • Our garden instructors collaborate closely with the school's Life Skills class where students cook the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors.

  • With a School Garden on each campus, as well as the multi-acre Boni-Bel Organic Farm, there are ample spaces for students to get their hands dirty.

Horticulture Plays an Important Role in the Lives of Our Students

Horticultural and vocational skills are also developed at Boni-Bel Organic Farm, which is comprised of a two-acre organic garden, an orchard, a greenhouse and a Country Store. Supervised by a professional organic farmer and vocational coaching staff, the farm provides vocational training and therapeutic activities for Green Chimneys students while maintaining sustainable agricultural practices.

Students are involved with the day-to-day responsibilities of Boni-Bel and its retail operations, including a seasonal farm stand and the Country Store. Beekeeping, honey production, maple syrup production, small machinery operation and customer service skills development challenge the students all year long. During the spring, summer, and fall months, planting, maintenance and harvesting activities take place in all of the gardens. In winter, students are exposed to the scientific side of horticulture, such as plant anatomy and seed propagation in our greenhouses.

Advantages of participating in purposeful, supervised gardening activities:

  • Enhance self-esteem
  • Alleviate depression
  • Improve motor skills
  • Provide opportunities in problem-solving
  • Encourage work adjustment
  • Improve social interaction and communication
  • Teach marketable horticultural and business skills

Gracie & Reba

Donkeys Gracie and Reba have been residents of the farm since 1996 and are particularly valuable partners for the children because they offer immediate feedback on behavior. They are patient, shy and headstrong but because donkeys only acknowledge humans who appear calm, this pair helps children learn the skills necessary to approach them gently and quietly. Gracie and Reba also have an extraordinary bond and have difficulty being apart so students must keep this in mind, even for basic tasks such as walking them. If the donkeys lose sight of each other they will start calling to one another so students work together to make sure the pair can see each other for their entire journey outside.