Building confidence with the elephants
Hello Valued Supporters,
In this report we would like to share with you the unusual types of animals that we use in our therapy.
At the beginning of the school year participants are introduced to the collection of small, “pet” animals in the “Animal House” classrooms. They are then gradually exposed to other animals – the domestic animals at the petting zoo (including goats, miniature horses, alpacas, rabbits and sheep). Depending on the age, needs and abilities of a particular group, participants are later also exposed encounters with larger animals like the bears and elephants (with appropriate safety precautions). Throughout the therapeutic process, the “pet” animals in the classrooms are utilized continuously since it is these animals with which participants are more easily able to form a bond. The “Animal House” classrooms are in effect our therapeutic room and most of the time is spent there.
Providing a program like this at a zoo has the advantage that the zoological collection creates unusual opportunities for varying activities and experiences that no usual petting zoo can give. Children are able to interact with exotic reptiles, birds and mammals and to participate in activities available only at the zoo (for example making “popsicles” for the bears from applesauce in summer), as well as a varied and attractive activity area stretching over 62 acres. In addition, participants have the added bonus of being able to view the behind the scenes areas of exhibits which are not open to the general public. Direct contact with the professional zoo keeping staff and exotic animals (such as elephants and lemurs) makes the activity more exciting and attractive for children. Interactions with larger animals usually help build self-confidence. Activities like feeding the elephants are wonderful for self-esteem given the size difference between the animal and the child feeding it. Each visit to the Zoo provides new experiences that break the monotony of their weekly routine and make them feel special. Hand feeding the koi fish and environments that include water are very calming so this activity is especially good for children who suffer from ADHD. About a year ago, we began using the Tegu, a South American species of giant lizard. The size and distinctive markings of this animal added a new dimension to participants’ experience with reptiles. Over the past year, we included the new Wolves exhibit as a tool in explaining group dynamics to children and as a metaphor for getting along in group situations. The children responded well to these attractive and fascinating animals.
Our team continues to be committed to providing the very best therapy and support to our special needs participants and we look forward to updating you further on our progress throughout the year.
Thank you for making this unique and special program helps possible so that those with special needs can overcome their physical and emotional challenges and to realize their full potential.
The Animal Assisted Therapy Team at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
Preparing honey treats for the bears
Participants get to meet exotic reptiles
The tegu lizard also used in therapy