“I teach at StoneLedge Stables, which is a non-profit I started in 2015. We are an outdoor, nature-based program, and rescued farm animals are co-facilitators. We have 3 horses, 2 pigs, a goat, a bunny, a duck, and a hen. Kids can start on the farm with a parent or caregiver as young as 2.5. Due to family requests, we now go up to rising 3rd graders.
When I was a child, I rescued an injured animal near my house. Finding this passion of rescued animals, and now farm animals, I offer that to students who wouldn’t have an opportunity to work with large animals. The animals give something that – no matter how much education, no matter how wonderful we are with students – that we just cannot give. Seeing the growth, specifically the social-emotional growth that occurs, is very transformative, not only for students but for their families.
We do animal husbandry work as part of our curriculum. Heavy work is such an invaluable tool to educators that we don’t use enough, especially in early childhood. It’s organizing and calming for so many students.
The math, the science you can bring in, we really work that cross-curriculum with the animal husbandry work. We are ~90% outside, and our other outdoor spaces are in the forest, at the brook, in the gardens.
For me, I’ve always been most connected and focused when I was outside, when I was with animals. I’ve always felt the most at peace in nature, and I really wanted to give that back to students, especially in an age of technology. Society moves so fast! With the increase in mental health issues and other diagnoses in children, I think we as educators really need to take that step back. Knowing where my own children were their ‘best people’—it was outdoors!”
-Sandy Bailey, StoneLedge Stables, Norwich, VT