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Fall 2010 Newsletter

Linking People and Plants

HTI Director’s Note:

We’ve had a full few months at the Institute. The International People Plant Symposium in Canada offered many discussions about HT research with colleagues from around the globe, as well as thought-provoking presentations, like the one described by Jay Rice in this newsletter. Pam Catlin brought her HT expertise and passion to the Annual Pioneer Network Conference in Indianapolis. Last month we held our first webinar on HT to a full “house”. (Actually, I think it was the first ever webinar on the topic of HT!) Colorado State University approved the new HT courses and curriculum – strengthening course content and expediting certificate completion for our students. We started another series of classes in California, and will hold an Introduction to HT class in Michigan for the first time this fall. Students began and completed internships. Read JoAnn and Ali’s descriptions of their experiences with HT in practice – very inspiring! Enjoy the fall, and the many fruits of your gardens. – Rebecca Haller, HTM

Last chance to enroll!

Deadlines have been extended for the final Introduction to Horticultural Therapy classes offered this fall. Deadlines for both classes are now October 18. This is the only chance students will have to enter the certificate program this year. New Introduction classes will be offered next fall, 2011. Join us in Denver, Colorado, November 4-7, 2010 or in Ann Arbor, Michigan November 11-14, 2010. For more information or to enroll email [email protected] or call 303-388-0500. Introduction to HT was just completed in Half Moon Bay, CA with 30 students in attendance!

From HTI’s Director, Rebecca Haller, HTM

HTI Fall 2010 Newsletter Intro to Horticultural Therapy Fall 2010 Rebecca Haller, HTM is proud to announce the seventh graduation class from the HT Institute this past February.  Fifteen students completed the capstone class and after completing homework will receive their certificate from the HT Institute.

Rebecca also wanted to pass on that CM&F Group now provides professional liability insurance for horticultural therapists. They are at Look under allied professions and then go to HT.


New HTI certificate schedule

The HTI certificate is now more achievable than ever. Building on our many years of experience in HT education, we have revised the schedule so that students can now finish the program in one year. With only four classes instead of the previous five, the consolidated curriculum reduces the time students are away from home as well as the cost of travel. We have improved the curriculum, shifted content across courses, and have new course numbers at Colorado State University. You will notice that Horticulture Methods for Therapy Programs is no longer a required part of the certificate, as much of that course content has been integrated into other courses. Introduction to Horticultural Therapy will become Fundamentals of HT next year. The new curriculum has been approved by Colorado State University and offers a total of nine credit hours to fulfill AHTA requirements for professional registration. Take a look at the new schedules on our website for more information.

International People-Plant Symposium

By: Jay Rice, HTI instructor

It was great to return to the combined International People-Plant Symposium and Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association’s Conference in Truro, Nova Scotia this summer. In truth, I have wanted to travel to Nova Scotia for many years, in fact, have had dreams of being in Nova Scotia for many years. Fortunately when the call for papers arrived, I had been reading an amazingly insightful book on the neurobiology of emotions, The General Theory of Love by Lewis, Amini, and Lannon. In this book they discuss how the capacity to nurture that developed with the evolution of mammals produced subtle and profound means for mammals to affect each other’s nervous systems through limbic resonance. I recognized that their model also might be explanatory for people-plant relations. In addition, since my talk at AHTA last year, I have been questioning the absence of an explicit connection being made between horticultural therapy and environmental sustainability. My integration of these two themes formed the basis of the paper I presented. It should be available in about 6 months in the journal ACTA Horticulturae.

While in Nova Scotia, I got to see the world’s highest tidal bore with Rebecca Haller, HTI director, kayak on the Bay of Fundy and visit an incredible sustainable forestry program at Windhorse Farms. They have a retreat center that I hope to teach at sometime next year.


By: JoAnn Yates, HTR
HTI Fall 2010 Newsletter

Armed with a big grin and a watering can, Caitlyn* tackles the chore of watering the garden with great joy. Her pride is palpable. The physical therapist looks on at this scene with disbelief. To those of us in the field of horticultural therapy, it is just another wonderful day in the garden. Never mind that the therapist was having trouble getting this young lady to walk across the room earlier in the day. We know the power of water, soil and nature. Caitlyn’s physical goal of walking unassisted was accomplished. Her success was met with cheers and clapping.


HTI Fall 2010 Newsletter

Jake has never been fond of tactile experiences. Efforts to get him to touch new objects have been met with frightful tears and screams. But on this beautiful fall day, the opportunity to reach out to touch the bumpy orange gourds proved to be too much for his steely defenses. The teacher marveled as he touched one gourd after another during the show and tell portion of horticultural therapy class. His success in overcoming his fears was celebrated quietly, with an approving nod.



HTI Fall 2010 Newsletter

Zach has control over his eyes and little else. As a large poster plastered with pictures of produce and flowers for the spring garden was placed in front of him, we all wondered if he would make the effort to cast his vote. When given the choice of peas or watermelon for the garden, David did not let us down. We patiently followed his eye gaze. Watermelons it was! This week we will cut open David’s watermelon and enjoy the moment once again when he expressed his opinion.

The Children’s Center, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, serves over 100 students with cognitive and physical impairments. A year and a half ago, armed with my internship proposal and knowledge gained with the Horticultural Therapy Institute, I discussed the benefits of a horticultural therapy program for the students with the school’s administration. The idea intrigued the school’s decision makers, and although I am not sure they fully understood what HT was, they saw it as marketing tool for the school.

HTI Fall 2010 Newsletter

I can happily say that the teachers, staff, administration and the students understand what HT is today. The monthly HT classes support the efforts of the teachers and provide an opportunity to experience new colors, shapes, textures and vocabulary. The garden has transformed the school and the lives of those that work there. Bright, overflowing planters greet visitors and staff alike as they arrive at school. The garden’s abundant supply of flowers, herbs and produce are freely shared with all who come to the school. On days when stress levels are high, the purposeful inclusion of nature on campus has provided a softer focus. On the weekends, parents chose to bring their family to the garden because it is accessible and fun. When we pass memorial benches and birdhouses in the garden that mark the lives that ended much too soon, we are reminded that that no life, however short, is forgotten.

HTI Fall 2010 Newsletter
Those of us in the field know the power of nature. Watching nature transform our school community has been an amazing experience for me. As a new member of the staff, I can honestly say that I am the one who has benefited most from the program. I have
learned what hard work really is as these students struggle with every step. I have learned the importance of trust and gentleness when teaching new skills. I have learned to patiently wait for a response that is slow in coming. This week our school butterfly is forming a chrysalis on it’s final journey towards maturity. The transformations taking place at The Children’s Center are no less spectacular. What a wonderful field to be part of.

* The student’s names have been changed to honor their privacy.

HT Internship with Kids at Loveland Youth Gardeners

By: Ali Miller, HTI graduate

The growing season has come to an end, garden beds are put to rest and the sound of silence fills the air at the High Plains Environmental Center. The kids have returned to school. As the leaves change, I find myself somehow different from my experience as an HT intern, touched by the young people who call themselves the Loveland Youth Gardeners (LYG). LYG is a summer gardening program that hosts ten to twelve teens, ages 13 – 18, who are considered youth at risk and/or have special needs, participating with the goals of gaining skills, being good stewards, and donating service to their community. I had the chance to be a part of this bountiful summer program, filled with immense amounts of produce, brightly colored flowers, laughter, tears and the cultivation of many new relationships.

From the classes offered by the HT Institute I have acquired the skills needed to be a part of this challenging but extremely rewarding field. I learned at the Institute that activities and plans were not always going to go as expected, that I needed to be flexible with the students as well as with myself, so everyone involved could benefit from their own horticulture experiences. At times different personalities would clash, making waves in the garden. But using the knowledge I gained from previous HT classes I was able to diffuse certain situations. I think the most important thing I learned from the Institute classes is to expect the unexpected.

In our society, full of evaluations and boundaries, these kids found it difficult to be themselves in our sometimes cruel world, demonstrating early on the need to be socially accepted by their peers. Nature, on the other hand, is non judgmental and allows those in its presence to be who they are. I got to observe daily the transformation that was occurring in each of these teens, as they blossomed into the next stage of their lives. Slowly but willingly, like a seed’s first true leaves emerging from the soil, these kids opened up to the possibilities that lie before them in the present moment, whether making new friends or just giving themselves permission to show their own unique colors. This was made possible for the kids at LYG with just one simple concept, a garden to call their own.

Not only did these kids learn how to be themselves and develop socially but also gained many life skills that will only benefit them. Planning and designing their garden space in the beginning of the program enhanced their cognitive abilities, sharing garden tasks with each other promoted and taught the concept of teamwork, and taking pride in their individual garden beds boosted their self esteem, building the self confidence needed for obtaining future employment. One student in particular was amazed that when he entered the program knew nothing about gardening but by the end of the season felt he would be a good candidate for a horticulture position at a local greenhouse after this years graduation.

At the end of the season, in our last closing circle, I explained to the kids what a monumental experience they all had created for me as an HT intern. This was the first time I have done any hands on horticultural therapy and I will always remember them as being the roots of my HT career. The knowledge and insight I gained from just one summer of interning will remain with me for years to come, all the challenges evolving into rewards, I have observed myself grow tremendously, right along with the garden itself and the adolescents who maintained it.

HTI Graduate Mary Beth Miller, Rhode Island

Mary Beth Miller of Little Compton, R.I., founder of Gardening for Good, died Aug. 8 at Philip Hurlitar Hospice Inpatient Center in Providence. She was 58.

She was born in New Orleans and moved to New England in 1985. She graduated from Ursuline Academy in 1970 and attended Loyola University in New Orleans and Bristol County Community College. As a past graduate of the Horticultural Therapy Institute Mary Beth was an inpiration to many of her fellow students. She was the founder of Gardening for Good in Rhode Island. While undergoing chemotherapy treatment for a rare cancer this past year she was quoted as saying. “Turning to plants and nature for solace and strength is obvious for me as a horticultural therapist.” We will miss her.


View the recording of a recent live webinar:

Topic: Entering the Profession of Horticultural Therapy

You will learn:

  • What is horticultural therapy?
  • Where is it practiced?
  • Who does it serve?
  • How can you receive training?

View the webinar here


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