Witnessing a mini caravan of camels—a trio really—is not a typical sight at most schools. At Green Chimneys, however, the image is slowly growing in frequency. Though there is an uptick in sightings, the experience consistently draws awe.
In October, the Sam and Myra Ross Farm & Wildlife Center welcomed the addition of a Dromedary camel named Bunni (pronounced boo-knee). He was given to the children of Green Chimneys as a gift from longtime friend and top camel trainer Doug Baum. At his home in Texas, Doug recognized that Bunni was having difficulties fitting in with the herd. He knew Bunni would benefit from a unique environment with specialized care. And so, Doug and Bunni traveled from Texas to New York (read more about Bunni’s arrival here). Two months later, Bunni is already embracing his forever home.
Getting to know Green Chimneys
The Arabian camel is successfully settling into life at the special education school and residential treatment center. At Green Chimneys, Bunni is one of over 300 animals that are incorporated into academic studies, recreational programming, and clinical services provided to children with special needs. Staff and students have taken extra measures to facilitate the camel’s transition including helping Bunni don a blanket whenever the temperature drops. Since arriving, Bunni’s even gained weight—another good sign.
Bunni also welcomes visits from Green Chimneys students. “Bunni is extremely social,” explains Equine Program Coordinator Samantha Arevalo. “He will greet any visitor with a low vocal grumble—camel language for hello.”
Getting to know one another
Bactrian camels Phoenix and Sage, who have lived at Green Chimneys since 2012, have also been showing Bunni the ropes. Students have observed them sharing time, space, and hay! Phoenix and Sage, along with students and staff, have introduced Bunni to various places on the Brewster campus. More recently, the trio delivered gifts from Santa to Nature’s Nursery students. Preschoolers and kindergarteners sat in calm anticipation as Green Chimneys School’s Camel Club led the mini-caravan. Upon arrival, the camels kushed (also known as sat) while the Camel Club carefully removed blankets stuffed with gifts. Once Santa’s packages were distributed, Nature’s Nursery classes had their photos taken with the camels.
Working together to deliver
This was a particularly poignant moment for both the trio of camels and the Camel Club. It is something they have worked toward for weeks. As one of several afterschool activities to choose from, Green Chimneys School students voluntarily work with the trio. Led by Program Facilitator Christopher Hahn, teens helped Bunni, Sage, and Phoenix prepare for the big day by breaking down each facet of the present delivery and practicing each component. As many students have learned, working with any camels requires connection and opportunities to engage the camel’s curiosity (read more about how camels are great partners in therapy here). Preparing to deliver Santa’s gift to Nature’s Nursery created opportunities for the teens to be a part of Bunni’s acclimation. It also allowed the teens to demonstrate what they have learned. Most of all, it created many reasons for the teens to take pride in their efforts and skills.
Connections and growth are possible.
Observing the camels and watching their interactions reminds us all that friendships aren’t made overnight. As Bunni, Phoenix, and Sage continue to build relationships within their herd, staff encourages students to draw parallels. Many Green Chimneys School students are learning how to read social cues, are strengthening communication, and building social-emotional skills. In time, with opportunity, and support, the camels’ connections are growing. Through the Camel Club and other animal-assisted activities, in group and individual therapy, and in school, Green Chimneys students are growing, too.
Show your support of Green Chimneys children and animals.
Please consider a gift to Green Chimneys and help sustain nature-based programs for children with special needs. Therapeutic education that incorporates animal-assisted activities and fosters connections to nature is helping students develop critical coping skills. Make an online donation to our Year-End Campaign today