"La Granja" is an educational farm with facilities covering 75.000 acres surrounded by nature and devoted to the comprehensive education of children in an out-of-school environment during their school years.
We began our educational task in 1.984. "La Granja" was created by a married couple named Juan Gutiérrez and Susana Lestón. At the beginning, they were devoted to teaching about nature, the environment and farm animals to children on school outings and summer camps.
Since 2.004 their daughters Susana, Cristina and Silvia Gutiérrez Lestón have taken over running the farm.
Eight years ago we decided to extend our objectives to embrace the important changes in the values of children today. Our concern in this sense has led us to carry out different activities: training in emotional education and introduction of this approach in our educational programs, the publication of the magazine VA D'EDUCACIÓ or free training in emotional ed. offered to parents and teachers from the schools whose children come to our Camps.
For the last 27 years we have been working with school age children (3 to 16) at our farm school “La Granja” in Catalonia,Spain.
During this time we have witnessed many changes for the better, but also some for the worse, and even alarmingly so.
I am specifically referring to the changes in values that we have observed on a daily basis through the years at our farm school.
Every year we have more than 15,000 students from primary and secondary schools,both public and private, and from cities as well as small rural towns.
With so many of them we are observing similar behaviour and through them we are being given a clear indication in which direction our society may be heading.
The culture of absolute comfort has come to substitute that of effort and gratitude. It is increasingly obvious to us that the children that we see need so much time to “buy and possess” that they literally have no time “to be” who they are.
Although our principal objective for many years was to teach the children to observe the nature around them, get to know the animals on the farm and instill in them an environmental minded conscience, six years ago we had to redesign a new primary objective.
We asked ourselves “How can we teach them respect for animals when they demonstrate so little respect for each other.”
Realizing that without the necessary basic values, the lessons taught, whichever they may be, would not resonate inside the children.
When we are young we are taught that Paris is the capital of France and the Moon is a satellite of the Earth…,but when are we taught all that we are capable of doing? How our emotions work? When do we learn to distinguish between sadness and anger? Who is in charge of showing us the interior strength that each of us carries within ourselves?
Because, when we have to face a difficult moral situation how does it help us to know that Paris is the capital of France?
In our country, Spain, schools, families and society in general do little in the way of teaching emotional education from early childhood. Therefore we thought that if this is not being done why not start ourselves in our own small way?
We began to train our entire teaching staff in emotional education (NLP, coaching, positive psychology, etc). We modified our programmes and activities to reach a new objective: To teach children and adolescents to become aware of their feelings and channel their emotions in a positive way.
They were encouraged to “interiorize” our camp slogan “Yes I can, yes you can, (then) yes we can,” To believe in themselves and to motivate them to discover all the talents that each and every one of us has inside…though often times quite well hidden!
We also found it necessary and important to give a parallel training course in emotional education to the teachers who accompany the school groups during their stays.
The results of incorporating emotional intelligence into our programmes become evident after one week with us and significant after courses of four weeks.
As a consequence we receive many comments from parents writing to us about the positive changes shown in their children´s behaviour and especially how the children feel about themselves.
I have to say that it wasn´t difficult incorporating emotional education into our courses. After six years of experience I can confidently state that it is more a question of working in a different way with more coherence and common sense in everything that we do.
The results not only benefit the students, but also the teaching staff who feel deeply rewarded when they see the look in a child´s eyes when he says “I understand now about what I can do and what we can all do together.”
Our Educational Foundation at La Granja, Montseny (www.lagranja.cat) continues to work towards the increasing awareness for the need for emotional education in children and we would be delighted to share our experiences and teaching methods with other educational centres.
Susana Gutiérrez. Director La Granja de Montseny
Translation by James Clarke Canterbury Consulting Spain