Experiential Learning

Cal Farley’s strives in everything we do to provide nurturing and healing to the hurting children we serve. The time they spend in a campus environment that emphasizes faith in God, participating in their community and superior education equips our young people with the emotional tools and real-world training to become eager learners and productive workers long after they’ve left our campus.

Among the ways young people living at Cal Farley’s learn the skills they’ll need to obtain and maintain a successful career is the Experiential Learning Program, or E.L.P. Through E.L.P., our youth are exposed to a broad range of vocational fields, from traditional trades like woodworking or horticulture, to the latest high-tech fields such as robotics and rocketry. In E.L.P., Cal Farley’s youth learn invaluable skills and participate in positive mentoring relationships through intentional educational courses.

E.L.P. is designed to foster a young person’s innovation and provides a more individualized learning experience. It also raises our young people’s awareness of the near-limitless number of careers available to them after they leave Cal Farley’s.

Youth participating in the program learn in small teams, working together toward common project goals. This process creates an atmosphere of camaraderie between youth and staff, which reinforces the work being done with our youth in other areas of their life at Boys Ranch.

Beyond learning skills and building relationships, though, youth in E.L.P. receive certifications that reflect their achievements in their chosen area of study. These industry certifications prove valuable both as a tangible symbol of their accomplishment, and make our young people more desirable to post-secondary educational programs or potential employers after they leave Cal Farley’s. Young people who came to Cal Farley’s feeling worn down by life or limited by their past circumstances leave us empowered to accomplish great things!

This kind of success doesn’t happen by accident. Caring Cal Farley’s professionals have designed a very specific curriculum to provide our young people with practical vocational knowledge in an environment that reinforces the six key values embodied in Cal Farley’s Model of Leadership and Service: safety, belonging, achievement, power, purpose and adventure.

So, who participates in the Experiential Learning Program?

To be in the program, a child must be at least 14 years old (older for some programs) and be judged by his or her youth care team to be ready to handle the responsibility involved. Younger children can join Experiential Learning Clubs, which expose them to a variety of program areas. Youth who want to participate in a given area go through an interview process. This serves two key purposes: First, it allows the child’s care team to ensure he or she is prepared to take on the challenges of the program he or she has chosen. Second, the question-and-answer process allows our youth to learn professionalism and interview skills that will help them when the time comes to apply for a job in their adult lives.

More than 20 courses comprise the E.L.P., including fields like agriculture, automotive, equine, engineering, culinary and more. Each is led by dedicated staff who have the professional knowledge and skills to provide our youth with the real-world skills to succeed in a career within that field. E.L.P. inspires Cal Farley’s youth to find success within their Boys Ranch community, but also encourages their long-term success as independent young adults.

Community As Lab

CAN AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY BE A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT? Visit Our Community As Lab Website In 2010, Cal Farley’s staff pondered how residents could extend science and arts learning outside the classroom. As they heal emotional wounds, youth also could develop hands-on skills to use in their future lives. The result was the development of the Community-as-Lab program. “Community-as-Lab is an effort to use the whole community as a learning lab for the youth,” said Cal Farley’s Executive Vice President Mark Strother. Essential to the program, Strother said, is understanding how the approach empowers residents by letting them make choices based on their interests. This helps engage them in their activities and shows them the power of their unique talents. “One of the main motivators in school,” Strother said, “is when you see the application in the real world. Getting residents involved in all of these things can motivate them back in math class, science class, history and writing.” Another way this highly accessible program benefits Cal Farley’s residents is through the positive relationships they develop as they learn from staff mentors and their peers. “They gain a sense of belonging, relationship,” Strother said. That’s a real key factor.” Xavier, 17 … Continue reading

A Good Read – The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog

Kid with book

Dr. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy and Maia Szalavitz, an award-winning health and science journalist are the authors of this pivotal work about trauma and the developing brain. The book is collection of stories of some of many the children and families Dr. Perry has worked with during the span of his career as a child psychiatrist and neuroscientist. Why we love this book: 1. Each chapter is a distinct case history and is written in an engaging narrative format. 2. The stories explore many crucial concepts related to neurodevelopment including the stress response system (freeze, fight, or flight), associations and attachment. 3. With each case study, Dr. Perry breaks down complex concepts into small, understandable pieces making this book a great learning and teaching tool. Why You Should Read This Book: Statistics clearly illustrate if you work with children you will likely encounter more than a few that have been exposed to trauma, violence, chaos and neglect. The Boy That Was Raised as a Dog illustrates how the different types of trauma effect emotions, behavior and a child’s ability to learn, and create and maintain relationships. Throughout the text Dr. Perry offers clear … Continue reading

The Brain and Sleep

  • When the brain is asleep the brain is not resting. (Medina)
  • Sleep is one of the most important ways we integrate memory and emotion.  Dreams occur when the sophisticated area of our brain is uninhibited enough to allow the lower areas of the brain to run wild with imagination and feelings. (Siegel)
  • Dreams are a mixture of memories in search of resolution.  They are leftover elements of the day’s events, sensory information taken in while we’re asleep, and simple random images generated by our brain during the rapid-eye-movement (REM) stages of sleep.  (Siegel)
  • Before memories can be fully integrated they must go through a process called “consolidation,” which seems to depend on the REM phase of sleep. (Siegel)
  • For people who have experienced trauma, REM sleep is often interrupted. This may be partly responsible for their memories remaining unprocessed. (Siegel)
  • These unprocessed memories may cause sensations such as flashbacks, nightmares and a sense that the trauma is ongoing rather than in the past. (Siegel)

Taken from Brain Rules by John Medina & Mindsight by Daniel Siegel

Eric Whitacre – Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 2.0, 'Sleep'

From An Old West Town to a Therapeutic Community:

Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch – A Work in Progress Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch began in a courthouse in the old West town of Tascosa. Beginnings, in most things, have a significant impact on journeys. The same holds for a boys’ ranch founded among the backdrop of cattle thieves and gunslingers. Our history has carried with it many traditional beliefs which have strengthened our mission and, at other times, weakened it.   These established ideas included each staff member utilizing his/her own personal approach to childrearing, labeling children as sick or broken, and a heavy dosing of behavior modification. Over the past 75 years, we have grown from housing a mere 9 wayward boys to a capacity of almost 300 boys and girls, aging from pre-school to seniors. During this time we have shifted our beliefs from the more traditional to transformational. In tandem with this trend has been our progression as a trauma aware facility. Although we have been relationally focused for several years, just recently we began an intense journey of learning about how relationships and experiences impact brain development. Pioneers in the field who have guided our thinking include Dr. Karyn Purvis of Texas Christian University’s Institute of Childhood … Continue reading

ON THE ROAD – Back to Cottage 4

ON THE ROAD WITH CAL FARLEY’S INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANT Forty years ago today I walked in to a cottage on a residential program campus on the North Side of Pittsburgh; a place that would be my own primary residence for the next three years. I would live there five days a week working with twelve girls and boys. I just took the job as a place-holder until I started law school. It turns out that law school was not meant to be part of my story. I had no intention that this would be the beginning of my career. As it turns out, it was the most meaningful and important job I’ve ever had. It set the course of my life and was the gateway to my profession. As I looked forward to this anniversary, I have reflected a great deal on that time and place. The teachers who have influenced my life cross a wide spectrum of fame, disciplines, experience and age. There were three great influences on my professional life in the earliest days of my career. First was the work of Nicholas Hobbs and what is known simply as Re-ED. His focus on wellness rather than pathology, on teaching rather … Continue reading

ON THE ROAD – In Memory of Bonita Smith

ON THE ROAD WITH CAL FARLEY’S INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANT In Memory of Bonita Smith During my forty years in this work, I have been blessed by the presence of many wonderful teachers. The often-stated phrase “on the shoulders of giants” applies to the careers of many of us working with young people and families across a range of related disciplines. Before most of those teachers made their way in to my life, however, the learning curve was very steep. My introduction to this work, in a residential program in Pittsburgh, was really by happenstance and with my every intention of proceeding on another career path. My two teammates and I worked on a rotating live-in schedule of four days on and two days off and much of our learning was through immersion. In the earliest days of my career I had yet to be trained in much of anything except the rudimentary understanding of behaviorism imparted to us by the more senior staff. The light at the end of the tunnel was Re-ED, based on the work of Nicholas Hobbs, Campbell Loughmiller and others. Re-ED was among the first strength-based, principle-based frameworks for working with vulnerable young people and their families. … Continue reading

ON THE ROAD – Where do we fall, where do we stand?

ON THE ROAD WITH CAL FARLEY’S INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANT Where do we fall, where do we stand? Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Winston Churchill Imagine that you chaperone a group of fifty-seven elementary and middle school students on an outing.  There, these young students were accosted with verbal insults and doused with beer, not by other students but rather by other adults. As I imagine myself being in that situation as a chaperone, I think of the anger that would well up in me and my struggle to focus on safety while setting a good example for the kids. It would be a challenge to re-channel my fight reaction to a more measured response. That’s just me and yet I know it isn’t just me; many of you might also experience the same double struggle in this situation. On January 24, 2015, Native American students, along with their chaperones, from American Horse School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota did experience the scene described above. They attended a minor league hockey game at the Rapid City Convention Center. The students earned this outing … Continue reading

ON THE ROAD WITH CAL FARLEY’S INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANT

 

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Helping Them Find Their Way

A “mob” of Aboriginal kids sat in a group and played music while others played basketball.  They beamed with pride as they ascended the climbing wall that had been constructed for the special day. Painted faces with butterflies, Spiderman and other designs adorned the smiling faces of many of the nearly 100 young people there. It was family day at Woolaning Homeland Christian College, one of nine schools in the Northern Territory Christian Schools system. This was a day of celebration in the residential school. Families came to see exhibits of their children’s school work, interact with the staff and school leadership, and show the younger siblings of the students already enrolled what the next step for them might be like.

Sitting just outside Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia, 2 hours’ drive from Darwin, Woolaning operates on land generously leased from the Petherick family, traditional land owners in that area. The school was a vision of a family matriarch and began in 1992 in collaboration with the NT Christian Schools system. This is a big event of the school year in this program and takes a great deal of planning and effort on the part of the staff to make it a success. In addition to the food, accommodations, supervision and festivities, transportation is a significant undertaking. Because the program serves students from across a large expanse of the Northern Territory, staff drive small buses up to six hours to bring families to the event and return them home the following day. It is exhausting, satisfying work for thirty staff members who carry out their faith, in part, through the work they do with these precious young people throughout the year.

The Aboriginal people in Australia are among the oldest indigenous cultures in the world. While their culture and traditions remain intact in many respects, life for the aboriginal people in Australia can be very difficult. Like indigenous people in every part of the world, the presence of colonists from different places and cultures overtook their country and forced many changes on them. They have survived and adapted through the arrival of foreign hunters, the farmers, the miners, and many families continue to try to survive the “Stolen Generation” that began at the end of the nineteenth century.

Aboriginal children continue to be 8-10 times more likely to experience some sort of governmental intervention or out-of-home care than non-aboriginal children. Life expectancy for aboriginal people in Australia is more than 10 years less than for non-aboriginal people. The Australian government and the aboriginal people themselves are working to address many of the significant issues that remain as a result of colonization and the resulting traumas. Aboriginal people continue to struggle to find a healthy balance between traditional ways and the constantly evolving world around them.

Aboriginal children between the ages of twelve and eighteen are enrolled in Woolaning Homeland Christian College by their families. While there the children experience support for their cultural, spiritual, health, and academic and vocational needs.They are served by a very dedicated staff of house parents, educators and administrators with demonstrated compassion and commitment. The experience children have in this setting can build capacity to not only enhance their survival but also help prepare them to thrive.

Additional Information:
Woolaning Homeland Christian College and Northern Territory Christian Schools

http://litchfieldnationalpark.com/

The Stolen Generation

 

Decoding – The Key to Connecting

Decoding is a critical first step to respectfully connecting with a person who is experiencing negative emotions and expressing those emotions in sometimes harmful or self-harming behaviors.  Three critical steps to decoding someone’s behavior are: To observe the behavior, To ask what the person might be feeling, and To acknowledge their feeling. A recent example of decoding I used was with a young man I’d not met before whom I was asked to interview.  I introduced myself and asked him if he would mind if I spoke with him.  He sat in the chair, crossed his arms and had a scowl on his face (not a happy camper). My decoding went like this: 1.  Observe: Tommy, I noticed you have your arms crossed and your jaws clenched, 2.  Ask: Are you angry? He responded with a yes. (If he would have said no, I simply would have asked; What are you feeling?) 3.  Acknowledge: I can see you’re angry. (An empathic response that provides connection) I then asked him what caused him to be angry and he said was angry because he was supposed to be at another activity he was looking forward to. We then went on and had a … Continue reading