How it Works
HeartStrong Farm utilizes many resources and methods in order to achieve our mission and retain our vision. While each of our methods serve a unique purpose and role in the program, every aspect of HeartStrong is designed to fulfill our greatest priority: to provide kids with a positive environment in which they can learn, explore, and most importantly, pursue their passions and know their worth.
Our mission is to utilize our positive natural environment in order to help kids develop a love for learning, gain confidence, and discover their purpose.
Our vision is for every child to know their worth and the impact they can make on the world.
The importance of being outside cannot be overstated as it is highly influential to the status of emotional, mental and physical health of individuals, and is crucial for proper development and overall wellbeing. One of the largest benefits of being outside is stress relief. Studies show that those who spend more time outside have increased levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to sleep habits, mood regulation, and memory. In addition to emotional health, nature also hosts many benefits regarding physical and mental health, as spending time outside improves social skills, gross and fine motor skills, sensory and cognitive functioning, and much more. Nature provides us with the balances our system needs regarding hormones and sensory input in order to function and develop properly. When we are in a natural, sensory rich environment, our mind is engaged as we are forced to think critically and creatively, and our senses are stimulated as we are encouraged to move, explore and experiment.
Not only is horseback riding enjoyable and stress relieving, but it also offers many physical and mental benefits, which is why horses are a large part of our outdoor enrichment and therapeutic programs. Movement opens learning receptors in the brain, making horses a valuable resource when it comes to education. While horseback riding, people experience large dumps of oxytocin, the hormone that facilitates bonding and feelings of happiness, allowing horses to play a significant role in mood regulation and relationship building. Riding horses relates enormously to much needed systems in our bodies. The vestibular system (the sensory system which aids in balance, coordination and bilateral integration) as well as the proprioceptive system (the sensory system which helps body awareness, pressure grading and motor function) are stimulated and greatly improved through horseback riding and all that it demands of our minds and bodies. Riding increases balance, coordination, muscle tone and flexibility as the rider is forced to engage multiple muscle groups at the same time as well as exercise the mind as constant multitasking and independent thinking is required.
Kinesthetic learning, or learning through hands-on activities, offers many benefits to the application of education among children. Educational material can be more difficult to receive when it is presented exclusively in the form of facts. Kinesthetic learning allows kids to experiment with the material, leaving them with the ability to explore and discover independently. Hands-on learning offers a deeper level of education, providing the child with not only the information itself but also the importance of understanding the information as it applies to real life. Creativity and self-expression is exercised as kids pursue their passions and educate themselves through their interests. Kinesthetic learning encourages open-ended learning and relates largely to the use of loose parts, or items which can be moved, redesigned and combined in numerous ways to educate and exercise the mind. Loose parts can include both natural and synthetic materials, such as sticks and rocks or ropes and buckets, and are extremely beneficial for a number of reasons, but mainly due to the mental stimulation they provoke through creativity. For kids who wish to build, they must think of a way to utilize their resources in order to recreate the idea they have in mind. For kids who wish to pretend, instead of using manufactured toys, they must use other materials as substitutes, such as a stick for a magic wand, and engage their imagination. Through kinesthetic learning, kids become accustomed to analyzing, experimenting, and inventing.
Free play, or unrestricted play, refers to child-led play and interaction that is free of adult interference. Free play is so important to the development of kids and can have life-changing effects on their social interaction skills. When children have the time to play together without having to associate with adults, they are required to practice certain cognitive, social and listening skills that are critical to their mental development. First and foremost, they are forced to think independently, practice decision-making and master problem-solving. When a situation or problem arises, such as how to design a tower or fort, the children must engage their minds and decide how to solve the issue themselves as opposed to allowing adults to do the mental work for them. If the fort falls down, the kids must think critically and figure out what caused the problem, then recreate the fort in such a way that will prevent another mistake. This leads to another important skill: creativity. Creativity is vital to the development of children as it is mind stimulating in the form of imagination, which aids in independent thinking. During free play, children receive much needed social experiences that will positively affect how they interact with individuals for the rest of their lives. Kids figure out how to exercise patience and compromise through turn-taking, whether that be having to listen while another child talks or giving other kids a turn on the swing. They expand their understanding of playing fair and treating others with respect, and meet the needs of their mental development through associating with people their own age.