ARVADA, Colo. — At The Community Farm in Arvada, kids write letters to pigs, goats and alpacas, and the animals “write back” – with some assistance.
“I’m not the animal. I am the interpreter. They whisper in my ear. I listen and I write it down, and I send it back,” said social worker Natalie Hittmeier, with a smile.
Hittmeier assists with Barn Buddies, a pen-pal program that helps students in first through fifth grade with social-emotional skills.
The pandemic took classrooms away from kids and had an impact on how younger students interacted with others, said Dr. Jessica Pfeiffer.
“When COVID hit, there were so many changes moving to remote learning,” said Pfeiffer, founder of Intricate Roots. “Hey, I miss being by my friends. I miss routines.”
Pfeiffer’s company works with school districts to look at learning through a neurobiological lens as well as an academic one. As classrooms opened back up, Pfeiffer said she saw there was a need.
“Realizing and hearing the stories of teachers feeling kind of helpless, not sure what to do with the kids, we created Barn Buddies, which is a pen pal program that students get to write to the animals about life and the animals read the letters and write back,” Pfeiffer said.
“More than ever right now, we need avenues for our students to connect, not just with humans, but with animals,” Pfeiffer said.
She said the farm visit teaches children about non-threatening behavior when interacting with the animals.
“I think they can be a little nervous sometimes when they haven’t met people that are around them,” Chloe said.
Pfeiffer said kids can learn a lot from their friends on the farm.
“I think there’s something very wholistic about being in a relationship with an animal,” Pfeiffer said.