Learning about animals and science at Green Chimneys

The Annual Putnam County 4-H (four-leaved clover) Fair in Carmel, NY definitely is a highlight for the children of the Green Chimneys rehabilitation center. Apart from showing what they have learned about cattle, swine, sheep, llamas and goats, they can also submit their science projects, developed together with the researchers from Surface Chemistry in Brewster.

Over the past few years our Surface Chemistry colleagues have developed a good relationship with Green Chimneys, a nearby residential complex that houses emotionally-troubled children from the New York City metropolitan area. Unlike other facilities that provide services to emotionally disturbed children, Green Chimneys operates an open campus and invites the community to interact with the children and staff. Included on the campus is a special education school, and Green Chimneys is a recognized worldwide leader in animal-assisted and nature-oriented therapy and activities.

Each year Surface Chemistry employees are involved as mentors of the Green Chimneys science program. Students are encouraged and supported setting up science projects which are submitted to the annual Putnam 4-H (four-leaved clover) Fair. When developing their projects the students are invited to do tests at the company’s laboratories and also science lectures at the Green Chimneys School are given by our R&D specialists. The projects guided by our volunteering researchers are quite successful as at least one project each year has won an award at the Fair. Two such projects were exhibited in 2011, involving six AkzoNobel employees, on Capillary Action and Bone Decalcification.

With support from the Community Program the science teaching facilities of Green Chimneys could be upgraded, purchasing laboratory equipment such as pH meters and test strips, thermometers, clamps, lab safety equipment and new lab furniture. Through this science cooperation the students were given the opportunity to interact with adults outside their usual environment and those who have participated have noticeably improved their social, interpersonal skills.

The involvement of our colleagues has not been limited to mentoring the science projects only. The children from Green Chimneys were already included in company off-site social events, one year inviting them to the annual picnic and another year to a minor league baseball game. This year they also participated in Corporate Volunteer Days at the Green Chimneys campus, helping out as needed around the grounds. The latest such effort was in September when some 25 volunteering employees painted gates in the animal barn and mulched farm mammal and bird cages. Some of the Green Chimneys children and staff participated in the day’s activities and shared lunch with the volunteers. Animals and science clearly help creating a better future for these children from difficult backgrounds.