Farm & Wildlife Center

There are over 300 farm animals, horses and unreleasable wildlife in our Farm & Wildlife Center. The main criteria for animals in our program are that they play a supportive role with the children. Domesticated animals, such as sheep, goats, chickens, dogs and other animals that are accustomed to living with people, make up the majority of animal residents. These are the animals that provide close contact with the children. Non-domesticated species such as eagles, hawks and owls live in the rehabilitation center. The children do not handle the owls and eagles in the same way they work with the farm animals and dogs. What You Can See At The Farm

Most Green Chimneys School students arrive at the farm during their first days with their social worker, class or dorm staff. They soon “pick out” a favorite animal quite naturally. We arrange for the child to work with that animal and form a bond. But all the animals are shared by everyone and they all are to be taken care of by us. Each child must reach out and build a relationship with a human and with their peers at the farm. The desire to care for their animal dictates that they learn about that animal from others. The trust and friendships established because of the animal’s needs and the child’s desire to nurture the animal are often the basis for our therapeutic treatment. The animal acts as a bridge from the child to the staff and peers. No child is ever forced to interact and the interest must come from the child.

Animal welfare is at the core of the Green Chimneys mission and great lengths are taken so each animal receives the utmost nutrition, housing and veterinary care. Our animals are partners, here for students and staff to interact with in a respectful manner. Behavioral enrichment is offered when needed and the staff is vigilant in ensuring that the animals benefit as much from their interactions with people as the children do. Experience has shown that the best way to prevent stress in therapy animals at the farm is to not ask too much of each animal in the first place. Prevention of stress is the key. Regular breaks, rest periods, play time with other animals, and frequent evaluation of the animals helps the staff and interns to make sure every horse, goat and pig continues to flourish in the program.

The Farm & Wildlife Center is open to the public on weekends, free of charge, for self-guided visits. Public hours are Saturdays & Sundays from 10am to 3pm. Plan your visit

Be sure to check the Events webpage for info on additional happenings.

Families of Green Chimneys students should follow procedures outlined by the school.

Green Chimneys welcomes academics, practitioners, and clinical and professional groups from around the world. Please schedule a visit to The Institute regarding the nature of your visit/area of interest and when you would like to come.

Animal-Assisted Therapy/Activities

  • Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise, and within the scope of practice of his/her profession.
  • Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) provide opportunities for motivational, educational, recreational, and/or therapeutic benefits to enhance quality of life. AAA are delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained professionals, paraprofessionals, and/or volunteers, in association with animals that meet specific criteria.

Children can respond to animals in ways they often can’t to people. The human-animal contact helps bring out a nurturing instinct. Learning to care for animals seems to develop a sense of responsibility and caring among children who may not have known that themselves. Contacts range from children who play with a dog, cat or rabbit during a session with a trained adult, to the more comprehensive approach used by Green Chimneys where children experience an immersion with animals, including therapeutic horseback riding, horticulture therapy including greenhouse and garden work, nature, adventure activities and a dog interaction and training program to help prepare rescued dogs for adoption. We have found that many of our children come to us unable to trust others due to very difficult situations. They are often sad or angry. They are more apt to risk a friendship with an animal because the animal will not ask questions, will not judge them and will not tell their secrets to anyone. The animal then becomes a bridge to the caring adults who are trying to help the child become successful.

  • Caring – to be encouraged to demonstrate and feel care for other living beings
  • Trust – to experience trust toward farm/garden staff and with the animals
  • Emotional Regulation – to develop the ability to function appropriately despite emotional challenges with farm/garden staff, peers and with plants and animals
  • Relationship building – to become part of a greater “we”; that cares for the gardens and animals, to feel a healthy sense of belonging to a group that shares common goals and interests. Learning how to build healthy peer relationships and to relate with adults.
  • Self-Esteem – as competence is experienced and the child feels accepted, self esteem can become strengthened
  • Anxiety Reduction – fears can be mastered and behavior patterns can be learned to cope with anxiety
  • Empathy Development – the ability to gauge and imagine another’s emotional state, both animal and human
  • Task Mastery – to be able to actively participate in caring for animals and plants
  • Conceptual Mastery – to become knowledgeable and competent around plants and animals
  • Vocational responsibility – to experience what a work ethic is and to feel real responsibility
  • Body Localization – Child develops the ability to locate and identify parts of the horse’s/animal’s body. This activity aids in developing awareness and understanding of one’s own body.
  • Health and Hygiene – Child develops an understanding of the principals of health & hygiene. In care for the horses, animals and plants, students are led to understand and utilize good habits.
  • Balance and Rhythm – Child develops the ability to maintain gross and fine motor balance and to move rhythmically while working around animals or riding horses. Child is continuously involved in interpreting and reacting to the animal’s movements.
  • Directionality and Laterality – Child develops the ability to know and respond to right, left, up, down, forward, backward and directional orientation. Activities focusing on directing an animal or working in the garden in a specific direction are used to aid the child in developing sensitivity to directionality of his body and space.
  • Time Orientation – Child develops an awareness of determining feeding time, exercise time, and resting time for the animals, students develop an awareness of the appropriate activities based on the weather and seasonal change.
  • Anticipatory Response – Child develops the ability to anticipate the probable outcome of his behavior with the animals and plants. If he yells or acts out, the animal will become frightened and react negatively. This aids the child in predicting the consequences of his own behavior and that of others in a given situation.
  • Comprehension – Child develops the ability to use judgment and reasoning in riding and working with animals and plants. This enhances his ability to use judgment and reasoning when interacting with other forces in his environment.
  • Perceptual and Cognitive – Child develops and is stimulated through training in spatial orientation, body image, hand-eye coordination, motor planning and timing, improved attention span, memory and concentration.
  • Physical – Child develops to effectively influence muscular strength and tone.

Academic Impacts

There are three major types of goals commonly focused on in an academic school setting:

  1. Academic goals pertain to schooling. Children attempts to improve competence and knowledge in various subject areas. In the nature-based programs, skills such as reading, writing, mathematical skills, social studies and history can be integrated 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.
  2. Process goals focus on how you do something. Children learn how to do math problems, how to read and write, and many other skills that are required to gain further knowledge and understanding. In learning how to measure animal feed or how to distinguish plants by appearance, children can be more easily motivated to attempt the process of learning. Learning to count in school seems uninteresting, but counting the chickens in the coop is a fun challenge.
  3. Character goals describe the attitude with which to approach work. Children learn how to adapt to the demands of school and how to effectively and successfully function in the academic setting. Even students that have a difficult time cooperating with peers in the school, to follow directions from staff, often develop these character skills first in the nature based programs. A child may not want to follow a teacher’s directions in class, but the same child will learn how to follow the direction of the riding instructor while riding.