DEXTER, MI June 17, 2022 – On a beautiful summer morning, Michigan Aerospace Corporation staff gathered for an all-day team-building event at Lovingway Family Farm. The 9-acre property is run by Laura Sanders, a licensed social worker and University of Michigan professor, and her partner, Ramiro Martinez, a certified equine specialist.
Located in Dexter, Michigan, the space has two barns, one for horses and one for chickens, pigs, goats, and miniature horses. The smaller of the two barns is attached to an office filled with toys and stuffed animals and decorated with images of farm life. It typically serves as a therapy space where children and families come for animal-assisted therapy. The barns also serve as classrooms where Prof. Sanders instructs graduate students and social workers in the field.
Prof. Sanders adapted her therapeutic approach to conduct a series of corporate team-building exercises involving farm animals with our staff. Animal-assisted team building is working with animals to achieve a specific task or goal. We spent the first half of the day learning how to safely interact with animals. The staff split into groups of 4 or 5 and worked closely in teams to steer goats through an obstacle course, guide pigs into a small swimming pool, and lead horses around the pasture without allowing them to stop to eat grass. All of which sounds much easier than it is! In learning to work with animals together, we strengthened our sense of solidarity and had an opportunity to explore issues like patience, assertiveness, self-confidence, and the ability to accomplish tasks as a team. We also learned more about each other’s weaknesses, strengths, and interests.