(Re)Building the memory

Oh the luxury of a three day weekend, thank you Chris Columbus! That third day off gave my family a chance to do… anything! I decided our Monday would be spent revisiting a super park in a neighboring town. Many days were spent there with my first child, now 6, before he began kindergarten. We spent countless hours enjoying all the park had to offer, usually followed by a trip to a local sandwich shop and a stroll to the town library.

When we arrived at the park I was dismayed to discover that my older son’s memories of our trips were nonexistent! The day unfolded as I had hoped, and my two boys and I had a great time. The whole time, however, I had a nagging feeling about my older son’s lack of remembering. The memories I thought we created at the park are ones I hold close to my heart. How could he not remember? Over the next day or two I realized that the good times we shared are within my son, buried somewhere within his subconscious. They are what make up the feeling he will carry through life when he reflects upon his childhood.

It also had me thinking about my students here at Green Chimneys. Many have had to endure real trauma, whether inflicted by an outside source or from within. What feelings will they carry with them throughout life when they reflect upon their childhood? Can we build positive memories with them here, at school, to stack upon some of the ugly or bad memories? Can our stacking of good times outweigh or cover-up the ones they never should have had to experience?

I know we can’t erase the past or our emotional ties to it, but through activities that occur in gardening class, for example, we can create authentic experiences that allow students to open up to and support each other. By providing this safe space (one that is structured, yet yielding, challenging, yet attainable) students experience how trust and teamwork can lead to healing and growing. The therapeutic benefits of walking sheep and feeding llamas, rehabilitating birds and raising snakes, riding on horseback and learning to rope, propagating plants and growing vegetables may outweigh some of the challenges they have endured and continue to try and conquer.

Just like my son, some of the details of their time at Green Chimneys may fade, some of the lessons they take away from farm classes may blur, but hopefully my students will look back upon this part of their childhood with fondness and an impression of good. This is a time in their young lives to build self-esteem and self-worth, to rebuild the self in its highest functioning capacity. This is a time and a place that allows for miraculous moments to happen, every day.

So, we work together at Green Chimneys as a team creating experiences filled with teachable moments not only about how to grow a great tomato but also demonstrate important life lessons: how to be a friend, how to deal with frustration, sadness and loss, how to lead, how to heal and how to grow… as individuals.

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About Green Chimneys Garden

Green Chimneys was founded on the belief that children will benefit from their interaction with nature and animals. Horticulture comes to life in our educational school gardens, allowing Green Chimneys students to heal, learn, and grow. Learn more about about our nature-based approach to special education by visiting www.greenchimneys.org
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