Our animal-assisted learning curriculum is designed to engage students physically, cognitively and socially with their peers, our animals and the Friends For Tomorrow staff.  We use a learner-centered approach in which the students are encouraged to ask questions and investigate the answers through active engagement, observation, and management of the environment to discover or acquire knowledge. We encourage journaling and self-reflective activities to enhance self-confidence, non-verbal communication, boundaries, the decision-making process, and self-advocacy. Strength in these life skills helps students positively impact our world and enhance their daily interactions and experiences with others.

The staff and volunteers are amazing with the kids. The group is facilitated well with lots of individualized attention. The wide variety of animals is fun and enhances learning. The topics in the cirriculum are well chosen.
— Pyrra, Parent

Why is animal-assisted learning useful?
1. Presence.  Animals don’t have calendars, cell phones, computers or other things to occupy their time and create worry about the future.  Animals exude spontaneity, emphasizing the simplicity of the moment.  
2. Sincerity.  Animals do not tease, criticize or use sarcasm - their actions and communications are genuine and straight from the heart.
3. Self-esteem.  Taking care of animals and being responsible for their physical and emotional needs increases young people’s levels of independence and responsibility. Helping to take care of a pet gives a person a sense of responsibility, pride and accomplishment, especially if the animal is able to return the affection.
4. Humor. Animal antics often make us laugh and their playful behaviors engage us and take our mind off of our problems and worries, even if just for a moment.
5. Empathy.  Being needed is a basic and instinctive human desire and animals can satisfy that need.  Successfully working with animals requires one to read non-verbal signals and react to them in a consistent manner, which is the basis of nurturing behaviors. 

Hooves, Paws and Claws is led by a Massachusetts horse Riding Instructor with PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) International certifications in Riding and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning.  The group is assisted by up to four volunteer animal handlers.

Sessions will be organized to form a cohesive age group based on applicants’ profiles. Enrollment is on a first-come first-serve basis, with class size limited to six students. This six-week, two-hour class is offered twice per year, winter and summer from 3:30 - 5:30 PM.  Limited scholarship is available.  Click here to download the program description.