4. While the psychological benefits of working with animals is widely known, why is it still rare in therapeutic settings?
5. The article profiles several students — Xander, Austin, Jack and Luis. What are some of the ways the school has positively affected their learning as well as their growth and development as people? Which student impact story do you think is most dramatic or memorable?
6. Richard Schiffman, the author, says, “Public schools seem to be at their capacity in their ability to help children with special needs.” What evidence does he provide to support this claim? What are ways that Green Chimneys is better able to support children with special needs than public schools — other than the opportunity to interact with animals?
7. Mr. Schiffman addresses some criticisms of the school:
Not everyone agrees that special-needs children should be sent to privately run schools at public expense. Some argue that the money would be better spent strengthening the special-needs programs in public schools rather than offering the best education that money can buy to a fortunate few.
What is the cost of the school and what does it mean that families meet that cost at the expense of public schools? Do you agree with the argument that support for Green Chimneys is hurting special education programs in public schools?
Finally, tell us more about what you think:
— What experiences have you had with animals? What have you learned from them? What did you learn about animals and their ability to teach humans? Does the article make you want to be around animals more?
— Do you, or does someone you know, have special needs? How does this article change your perspective on students with special needs?
— Which student profiled in the article do you relate to most? Which animal do you connect to most? (Snowflake the goat? Dixie the pony? Bonz the racehorse?) Explain why.
— How does your school support students with special needs? Do you think the supports your school provides are satisfactory or need improvement? What recommendations would you make to improve your school for special-needs students?
— Would you want to go to Green Chimneys? Should all schools provide students with access to animals? Write a letter to your teachers, principal or school board appealing to them to provide regular access to animals for students.