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Horticultural Therapy Taps Into Resident’s Interests to Support Vocational Education

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July 22, 2014

Green Chimneys opened its doors in 1947 as a school on a farm where children worked alongside staff to maintain the farm and take care of each other. Today, vocational education remains a cornerstone of Green Chimneys programming to support career readiness, self-advocacy, expression of individual strengths, and access to competitive employment. Our program is both part of our academic curriculum and our campus culture. Students learn employment skills and career awareness through individual and group education. With assistance from the vocational counselor, students are assessed and matched to vocational concentrations which most suit their interests.

NEWS_RESIDENT_Hort-Therapy-Student-Vocational-Ed_July2014.jpgFor nearly a year, Green Chimneys resident Gregory has been working with farm program facilitator and registered horticultural therapist Erin Backus. Every Saturday, Erin leads a one-on-one horticultural therapy session which provides a safe, supportive opportunity for Greg to work on personal goals of boosting self-esteem, gaining proper peer relationships, expanding social skills and horticulture knowledge. Erin organizes activities including occasionally arranging for another resident to participate in a session so that Greg may work on developing relationships, working collaboratively, etc.

On one particular day, Erin introduced Gregory and Nazheir, another resident, to plant design and the concept of a "living wall." They were given plants and tasked with working as a team to create a design and implement it. Greg successfully listened to his peer, offered ideas and worked collaboratively to build the living wall – all things that would not likely have happened if he was presented with the same situation a year ago. His attention span has increased during their weekly sessions and his knowledge of horticulture is budding.

Greg has made amazing progress this year. His social skills are improving, and he really takes pride in the work he does at Green Chimneys. He loves to share his knowledge of plants by showing staff around the garden.

This summer Erin has been bringing Greg to Boni-Bel, our organic farm and country store, so that he may continue to build on his social skills by working at the farm stand and interacting with customers. And Greg's vocational counselor, Stephanie Wozniak LPC, sees no end to his growth, “I anticipate that Greg's sessions with Erin will continue to motivate his efforts to improve social skills, and he will have more opportunities available to him.”

Meet Greg and other students at our farm stand!
Plan a visit to Boni-Bel Organic Farm & Country Store >
Learn more about our educational program for residents >

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