HAI activities and programs developed for schools have proven effective educational tools for teachers and sources of genuine enrichment for children. The story of “Our teacher is a pony” is both telling and typical.
“Our teacher is a pony” means that for 8 weeks, a class of pre- or elementary school students in Noirt (western France) spends Thursdays at a nearby horseriding center. The ponies that live there and the countryside that is their home are leveraged for educational purposes, supporting the development of children’s cognitive, social, and motor skills.
Kindergarden school teacher Sophie Bichon has no particular interest in horses but has been involved in the program since it was initiated by local government in 2009. She realized it’s value almost immediately and has never lost her enthusiasm. I teach in a disadvantaged area and have always looked for educational experiences that will open my students’ world.
At the horseriding center, children spend a full day immersed in a different world from what they are used to, alternating between schoolwork in small groups and activities with ponies. The program helps children develop their sense of organization, structure, and respect. They learn to listen, how to function in a group, and to overcome fear. When it comes to doing traditional schoolwork, the kids in the program learn faster because their curiosity has been stimulated.
“Our teacher is a pony” has helped to build cohesion within the class and enhanced relationships with children’s families. Indeed, every week, a few parents come along and get to see for themselves what great teachers animals can be.