Thursday, August 4, 2011

Care farms are part of a growing 'ECOtherapy' movement, but the types of activities provide long-term benefits? Bibi van der Zee joins a group of young people to find out

Before breakfast, three young people to go into the woods, a little struggling with the heavy bag with nuts to sow. "Just scatter them in different piles," says collaborator Jane Brinson, help them by an electrical fence. "If you do it in one place, won the small pigs 't be able to get something."

The pigs, which are enormous, over-voltage protection to us, and their new Shuttle regression. "I 'm not doing that," says 15-year-old Daniel firmly. Sofia, but who at 14 is a good head shorter than her classmates, issue the pocket and moved forward, methodically pouring a dozen small pile of nuts under the trees, like pigs scrabble around behind her. "She 'sa natural, \," Brinson says admiringly. Sofia does not look up, but a sweet little smile flickers across her young face serious.

The young people are part of a group of pupils from St George 's School in west London, who come to have for Jamie \ stay' s farm in Wiltshire. Most of them have never been in the country. Five days later they will get up early to feed animals, go to the farm, eat a big breakfast, and then head off to perform tasks that do this are being a farm, depending on the season. End of July, they pull up coriander, the seeds go from the vegetable patches, feeding calves with farmer Jamie Feilden and help with the harvest.

But this is not just a gang of young people on a school trip. Jamie's Farm is one of a growing number of care farms across the UK aiming to provide a farm-based therapeutic intervention. The pupils have been chosen by their teachers because they feel they could benefit from what the farm has to offer. Sofia is a young carer in need of respite, Georgia, 14, is extremely quiet, and Sarah, 13, is "full of attitude". Many of the group of 10 are well known in the school's learning support unit, and at least one, Hasan, 14, has recently been temporarily excluded from school.

Closer bonds

And the young people seem to be thriving. Aaron, 12, who has had attendence issues, says of the horse whispering: "I feel as though she [the horse] is calm and I'm calm and she's focusing on me. I had to work out how to speak really calmly to make her do what I wanted."

Back at St George's, the teachers report tears from several children on the bus home from Jamie's Farm. After just a week, have the changes stuck? "It's too early to tell, really," says art teacher Rebekah Spalding. "But all week teachers have been stopping me in the corridor, talking about the difference they notice in the children. Georgia stood up and gave a talk to her class about Jamie's Farm; she's putting her hand up in class and participating for the first time ever. Sofia is much more outspoken too, it's done a lot for her confidence. It will have less effect for some of them, but even so, I think they'll remember it for ever."


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