The program for children at Owen Farm is about so much more than being outside and caring for farm animals. There is a lot of learning seamlessly integrated into every chore and activity. Kids are learning new communication skills, how to listen, and how cooperation works to accomplish a task. This learning translates directly to greater success in school, at home, and in the community.
“You can see the kids learning to get along,” says Stephanie Rush, one of the outreach counselors. “If two kids have to carry a bucket of water, for example, they get to practice their new skills to figure out how to do it together!”
So what are the kids learning? They’re learning communication and cooperation skills, and they’re also learning about self-management, and self-reflection. “We help kids understand how their emotional reactions can get in the way of hearing someone else’s perspective,” said Martha Clark, Assistant Director, Children’s Impact Program. “What’s so great about the farm environment is that there are so many ways to safely and concretely practice these new skills, make mistakes in a supportive setting, and grow.”
The children who participate in the program come from a wide range of backgrounds and face a range of emotional and/or behavioral challenges. Farm chores — like caring for animals or tending a garden, and activities like felting soap and building wooden boxes — create a level playing field for everyone.
“Understanding how one’s behaviors and feelings affect others is another important part of the learning that happens here,” said Stephanie. “All of the kids we work with come from environments where appropriate communication wasn’t ever modeled, so it wasn’t learned. The ability to communicate feelings and needs appropriately forms the bedrock of confidence and self-esteem.”
Evidence strongly suggests that improved communication leads directly to improved family relationships and school success.
“The skills that kids learn here at the farm are used immediately at school, at home, and in the community,” Stephanie said. “Everyone involved at the Owen Farm program has watched kids change and grow — and start feeling better about themselves!”