July 2, 2015

Welcome to HKR 3515 – Therapeutic Recreation in Outdoor Settings. Today July 2nd, 2015 marks the first class of the semester. Am I nervous? No. Am I excited to have Dr. TA Loeffler teach me since 2012? Yes. Throughout my degree, as I near the end of this journey I was hoping our paths would cross again as this lady has sparked an interest in me towards this field of study.

Today we began our journey, the first task? Planting a Green Pea seed. Why would one plant a seed or even think about gardening? Gardening has various therapeutic benefits according to Selhub, E. & Logan, A. (2014) Your Brain on Nature state “Gardening requires memorization, visuospatial skills, and executive functioning.” (P.162).Throughout my childhood I have had a learning disability. The side effect from this difference is a memory delay, my parents would encourage gardening as a tool that would increase my skills and require my memorization. Planting the seed, continuing the growth of this plant and encourage the memorization of watering and maintaining this plant and any other requirements to ensure this plants’ survival. How has this improved my memory skills? Overall this task allowed for my memory to require frequent use and action to ensure the plant continued to grow. In addition, I could use this gardening skill in various settings once I become a therapeutic recreation practitioner such as long-term care, mental health, and with the general population. For instance in long-term care facilities this is now your clients’ new home, sometimes smells and the small things in life that we often take for granted are no longer there. With gardening a small plant alongside one’s bedside this may bring familiar settings of a home, and will allow clients to feel a sense of “home” that they potentially have been longing for.

I view gardening as a therapeutic tool which I would use in my professional practice as well in a municipal setting. I am a strong advocator for municipal community gardens as they create employment for people, as well provide therapeutic tools overall it is great for spin off projects. Presently I sit on the Pride in Your Community Board of Directors for the Town of Conception Bay South where I continually advocate for the benefits of theses gardens and currently I am pleased to say the municipality has a parcel of land frozen for this project. I see the benefits as this land is near the Eastern Health building in Conception Bay South, therefore this is convenient for people at this facility to use.

In relation to the course text “Ecotherapy”, Elizabeth Diehl states “the act of sitting quietly in a garden and breathing in its fragrance and beauty while listening to the sounds of nature can reduce stress and calm one’s mind, leading to long-term restoration and rejuvenation (p. 167, 2009)”. In Newfoundland it is very easy to take nature for granted as we are completely immersed and surrounded by it. However in a big urban city, such as Toronto, there is in fact very little pockets of green spaces. I can see gardening in these larger urban places as an essential escape from the man made structures.

In our second portion of the class we were grouped into groups of four and asked to come up with twenty-five elements related to Therapeutic Recreation in an outdoor setting. Some examples of what this list was comprised of are as follow: attitude, staff, funding, program delivery, and equipment. Once we had these twenty-five factors completed we then were given straws and asked to group these into five categories. For many in my group, we found that each of the elements could easily fall under more than one category.

Once we finished this task, we then moved onto our next task of the Egg Drop! This is a challenge that I have done before with various summer programs that I have conducted, it is always a hit! The objective of this drop is to think of the egg as our client with the end goal of your egg surviving the approximately fifteen – twenty foot drop. The supply we were only allowed to use was straws; we first build our base as we felt this was important to protect your clients fall. Second, we began to wrap the straws around the egg, to ensure that there was equal protection around. We then used tape to wrap our egg up to ensure a successful fall. Each of these steps were used with the though of in the manor that with life, you take risk. In order to have success risk is always a potential. One the Egg Drop began, we noticed that others in our class had similar ideas as us; unfortunately our client dropped…and did not survive the fall. Ultimately in the real world if this was a client, you would ensure that the safety steps are in place, and would not drop your client from a fifteen – twenty foot drop, we would go back to the drawing board.

Once we broke off for lunch we then met back at 1:00pm for our next visit from the Avalon Dragons. This row boat team is comprised of a group of women who have a common goal and interest yet have shared an experience together. This experience being they have survived breast cancer. These ladies have what appears to be an outstanding circle of support from family, friends, and the most support from one another. The goal of the dragons is to give awareness and hope to those who may be presently going through this rough time or to help once they have had their multiple procedures completed. Physical activity has been proven to shown to reduce the likely hood of cancer, as well as reduce cancer from reoccurring. In our final activity of the day we were introduced to the Hippocampe and Trail Rider, both of these adaptable chairs are of interest. Currently I sit on a sub-board for the Manuels River – Manuels River Experience my goal is to create a program for the facility to bring one of these options to our river for those in need.

In conclusion, as a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist it is vital that we advocate the need for our field of practice not only in a hospital setting but as well in a municipal setting.

Sincerely,

Ryan Lawlor

Sources:

Buzzell, L., & Chalquist, C. (Eds.). (2009). Ecotherapy: Healing with nature in mind. Sierra Club Book: San Francisco, CA

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