Understanding bullying, the forms it comes in and helping students to better identify and stop it takes many conversations. A group of third-graders at the Academy of World Languages had the opportunity to have those conversations with the help of miniature horses.
The four visiting miniature horses came from Seven Oaks Farm through the non-profit’s VALOR program. The VALOR program is a partnership with local schools and fire or police departments to educate students on how they can be a Very Important Person (VIP) in their community by standing up to bullying.
“Our students represent 35 different countries from around the world,” said Tonya Flannery, lead teacher for third grade. “Having this unique program in the classroom is so important for our students so they understand all the ways that they are unique and deserve respect.”
Lisa Moad, founder and president of Seven Oaks Farm Miniature Therapy Horses, gave a brief lesson on how students could use VALOR in their everyday lives:
- Value others
- Always be kind
- Lend a helping hand
- Offer encouragement
- Respect classmates
Moad asked the students to provide examples for each value in VALOR, and talked about how students could tell the difference between being rude, being mean and bullying, and what to do in those situations.
Then came the horses.
Horse handlers brought Wendy, Suzie, Toby Keith, and Willie Nelson into the classroom for students to learn about and pet. Moad talked about how the dozens of horses on her farm each had something special that made them unique, and that she tries to be the VIP for her horses by taking good care of them.
“I can tell when a horse has been treated with respect, as they learn new things easily, whereas horses that have been mistreated have a harder time learning new things and trusting people,” said Moad. “These miniature horses are just like people in that they are different from each other, but they still deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.”