Residents and clients of Woods are set to have an on-campus social experience like never before, thanks to the continued collaboration of our recreation and maintenance teams.
Say Hello to Our New Barn
Our new 36 x 48-foot barn stands tall and gorgeous in our barnyard, waiting for a fresh coat of paint, a fence and finishing touches. Our recreation team plans to decorate the barn’s interior with various pieces of artwork made by our residents.
Most notably, our maintenance team has been hard at work to install a 36 x 48-foot barn near the corral nest to our fenced-in barnyard. The barn, which has two floors and a wide double-door entrance, will change the landscape of animal-assisted therapy for residents on campus, allowing more opportunities for interaction.
Animal-assisted therapy at Woods has evolved from the early days of horse visits in the summertime, to periodic visits from dogs in the residents’ homes, to eventually bringing in goats, alpacas, potbelly pigs, ducks, chickens, bunnies and more. With funding from the Woods Services Foundation through the Social Innovations Lab, a collaborative initiative by Woods and the Social Innovations Institute to provide solutions to social problems on campus, Woods’ recreation and maintenance teams built a fenced-in barnyard for these animals. The barnyard allows for residents to visit the animals at their own leisure or during educational and recreational programs.
Horses visits have been a longstanding tradition at Woods. We are excited to keep the experience alive for our residents with a new touch, thanks to our newly installed barn.
Now, with a barn installed, the animals will have a place to permanently reside, allowing for year-round visits and programs – indoors and outdoors.
“We don’t want the animals to go home every winter and then have to come back and risk our kids losing that connection and touch,” said Beth O’Toole, assistant vice president of recreation and aquatics at Woods. “And so we thought, ‘What if we really had our own barn for a year-round animal-assisted therapy program for our residents?’ And it just kind of snowballed from there. Now we have this gorgeous barn.”
The animals will be cared for by a group of full-time Woods employees who are animal-assisted therapy specialists who will be supported by Woods’ clients who have been trained to assist.
Expanding the Arts
Our residents have grown very connected to the animals – so much that they even create artwork for them and present the artwork during special occasions. The horses, for example, are given a birthday party every summer and the alpacas are given parties every spring. At these events and others, the residents gift artwork – such as drawings and cards – made especially for each animal.
The expansion of our animal-assisted therapy program will provide even more opportunities for our residents to create and showcase artwork. For this year’s art show, taking place 3-8 p.m. on March 31 and April 1 at the Common Grounds café and front lawn, a whole category will be dedicated to showcasing animal art made by the residents. It is also planned for their artwork to be hung in various places inside the barn for visitors to see.
More Connection with Nature
The nature trail supports residents’ sensory development through a wide range of educational programs, activities and opportunities for leisure on the trail. Our recreation and maintenance team have been hard at work with maintaining the trail and most recently adding a new extension, offering more accessibility for residents.
Some of their art is currently displayed in our quarter-mile nature trail, which is almost always being enhanced by our maintenance team. Residents can now walk on the trail at night, thanks to newly installed nightlights and solar lights.
“You can’t do the nature trail justice in photos because you can’t understand the difference in sound,” said O’Toole. “And just the difference in immediate feeling of those gorgeous, super tall trees … you literally forget you’re on campus. You feel like you showed up at a state park somewhere.”
Over the winter months, residents have been visiting the trail and have used their sightseeing as inspiration to return to the art room on campus and make various pieces of art resembling what they saw. For the Christmas season, the maintenance team hung up larger-than-life Christmas ornaments and lights on the trees surrounding the trail, illuminating snow walks. For Halloween, the entire trail was decorated to look haunted.
As the warmer months return, the amount of activities on the trail will grow. Residents will even be able to travel from the nature trail to the barn and vice versa, thanks to a newly added extension. “We are so excited for the extension of the nature trail [because] now everyone will be able to visit the animals at the barn, stroll past the corral and on to the trail,” said O’Toole. “We are excited the classrooms will have easier access to the trail and our outdoor learning center. We are looking forward to all of the fun activities we have planned on the trail.”
A multitude of recreation programs and activities now awaits our residents. Check back for a closer look.