Anneliese School Animal Programs Bring the Class to the Backyard


Anneliese students read to a mini horse as part of the school’s animal learning program. Courtesy of Anneliese Schools

By Barbara McMurray, Independent Special

The Animal Learning Program at Anneliese Schools is a point of pride for the private institution whose hallmark is to provide unique educational opportunities for Kindergarten to Grade 6. Through her creative approach to learning, Anneliese is among the first to successfully implement animal learning programs that take full advantage of the relationships between young children and animals. For the past three years, kindergarten children and, more recently, first graders on its three campuses have read and spent time with the of three mini horses.

Three times a week, students spend 30 minutes with the animals in the Mini Readers program, taking turns reading and grooming them. Through an additional program called Second Steps, students are encouraged to relate to the horse as a non-English speaker. With a teacherThrough her guidance, students learn to read nonverbal cues and build rapport in a liberating, non-judgmental environment, a critical step in social and emotional development.

The Reading Program is designed to inspire kids to get excited about books, Janet O, Anneliese’s Animal Care Coordinator.said Faolain.

Students I know who may have difficulty concentrating attention in class reported that being around animals made a difference in their ability to pay attention in class. When they read to an animal, instead of feeling judged if they make a mistake, they often feel freer and more confident, ”she said.

Children often make the horse part of the reading session, showing them pictures in the book, as a teacher would with a student.

Annelieses animal programs began with its farm-to-table craft program. In addition to the mini horses and goats, the school is also home to three alpacas, the fleece of which is used by students in their arts and crafts classes. Children knit, weave and dye fleece to make bags, slippers, hats and rugs, improving their fine motor skills and problem-solving skills while producing useful memories for their families.

Students are encouraged to participate in alternative recreation options, including spending time with the many animals on campus. Students can volunteer at schools aviary, collect eggs, feed and take an inventory of the many different birds that live there. The first year students have time once a week to visit the aviary for hands-on learning of the different species in residence.

“The animals help me calm down,” said Alva, a third-grader at Anneliese. “I just bond with them and they listen to me and theyre fine. ThisIt’s almost like having a sister or a brother.

Other animals on campus include goats, whose fun personalities and size make them perfect companions for children. Goats usually need time to warm up to humans, but once they do, they become playful and interactive, a good socializing experience for students. A beloved goat named Oreo recently had surgery to remove urinary stones. This type of surgery, performed only in a few clinics in California, is surprisingly dangerous. It was a small miracle that Oreo survived. The school is currently raising funds to replenish its emergency veterinary fund.

To learn more about Oreo and its surgery, or to donate, visit

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