There are several goals set for each individual student throughout their program academically, therapeutically, and behaviorally. Correlating intrinsically with the development of each of those facets is character development. This week I was able to witness several lessons focused on supporting our students’ growth in this area.
Earlier in the week was Hay Day! You may initially gravitate your thoughts to an out of control mess, but you would be wrong. It was a big day on the farm in which we had nearly 1000 bales of hay delivered to be stored in the barn for a full years’ worth of horse dinners. It was a campus wide project in which nearly all of the Ironwood staff and students participated in receiving the deliveries from a local farmer and diligently helping to store them in the barn. Our students were able to test their strength and resiliency through the long day of muscling bails up a conveyer belt and onto stacked piles of hay in the loft. This simple, old-fashioned character building exercise of hard work was a necessity in the care of our horses over the next year, and these students can carry the essential skills learned into other situations throughout their lives.
Craftsmanship is another character quality that is constantly being upheld here on campus. During down times at Frye, students participate in what is known as campus beautification. This time is spent working on projects that add to the functionality and aesthetics of the campus. The latest project consisted of digging up a huge rotted tree stump, leveling the area and hauling in crushed stone for footings. We then brought in downed birch trees to create a natural barrier and stacked a series of flat rocks to create a serving table. Once all was set into place two picnic tables were brought over to add the finishing touches to our brand new outdoor patio! This newfound ability to create things with increased quality will continue to serve them for many dinners to come.
Compassion is another vital character quality that isdeveloped during our student’s time on campus. The community model of our group supports the growth of a deeper understanding of their peers and an ability to recognize, understand, and relate. This ability allows for the growth of the ever so important traits of compassion and empathy. While each student is working on their own individual goals and challenges, the underlying social, physical, and emotional struggles are similar. Nearly every day, Farmhouse students advocate to spend time at Frye to “mentor”. This gives students an opportunity to validate their peers’ concerns, offer encouragement, and suggest strategies to persist.
As you all are aware, life offers constant opportunities to engage in character development. It is a never-ending testament to our will and drive to continue to better ourselves and make the most of our surroundings. Life at Ironwood is no different, and each of our students are offered the same opportunity to challenge their own character, develop new abilities, and add resiliency.