Horticulture

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

Donkeys

Donkeys are amazing animals that provide important lessons for our students. Gracie and Reba, who have lived here since 1996, are loyal friends — to each other, and to our students. This pair dislikes being separated, and if they lose sight of each other, they’ll call out until someone brings them back together again. Gracie and Reba are shy, and only respond to humans who show them kindness and patience.