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The Green Chimneys Project

The aim is to understand the impacts of animal- and horticultural-based interventions in complex treatment and special education environments.

Green Chimneys, located in Brewster, NY, is a residential treatment and special education facility for students with serious psychosocial challenges. IHAC's research group is documenting and measuring the impacts of a wide variety of animal-, horticultural-, and environment-based interventions that are incorporated across the campus. As part of this effort, a new methodology, necessitated by studying such a complex clinical environment, is being developed to measure the effects of the programs on self-regulation skills and positive youth development. This methodology, referred to as a relative efficacy map, is anticipated to reveal unique insights into the impacts and mechanisms of nature-based interventions at Green Chimneys and other complex clinical environments.

Documentation Report

Phase I of IHAC's efforts to study the impact of Green Chimneys’ unique farm programs on outcomes for the students who attend Green Chimneys School involved the completion of a detailed documentation report. The research team first conducted a comprehensive review of the relevant research literature to evaluate the impact of nature-based interventions on the social-emotional learning and positive youth development of children and adolescents with psycho-social and special education needs. Research team members then directly observed Green Chimneys’ programming to gain further understanding of the diverse nature-based interventions offered to students and their apparent effects. You can download the full Green Chimneys documentation report below.

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Qualitative Studies

Phase II of IHAC's Green Chimneys research portfolio includes a series of qualitative studies based on semi-structured interviews with over 100 Green Chimneys staff members across the farm, school, clinical, and residential life departments at Green Chimneys.

The first study is focused on describing the essence and nature of special education teachers’ lived experiences in incorporating nature-based interventions as a tool to improve youth social-emotional learning outcomes and promote positive youth development. Almost universally, teaching staff perceive nature-based interventions to effect marked improvement in:

  • Prosocial behavior
  • Caregiving and nurturing
  • Connection to animals, plants and humans
  • Curiosity and excitement about learning

While staff acknowledged occasional or temporary challenges and barriers to student participation, overall, the nature-based activities are viewed as an essential component of the Green Chimneys education and treatment model. You can access the full article in the Journal of Youth Development below.

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