Green Chimneys – A school looking to revolutionize special education

Balancing the communication tightrope

Imagine this: You’re leading a school with a particularly important mission. Maybe it’s a focus on STEAM education. Maybe a dedication to real-world learning structures for students with disabilities. Or possibly close to 100% college admittance.

Maybe even all three?

You believe strongly in your mission, and your vision for student success resides at the core of your school’s values. But you face a difficult challenge.

How do you effectively communicate your school’s worth to prospective families without sending them into information overload?

Stay tuned, because at the end of this article, we’ll share how the Green Chimneys
School in Brewster, New York is doing just that. All while changing students’ lives forever.

Effective communication from a school looking to engage with a prospective student or family is like a tightrope walk. Inundate your audience with information, and they’ll feel overwhelmed and panic. Disengage entirely, and you face the possibility of slipping between the cracks.

Elegant communication tactics, or those which comfortably engage your audience and build trust without intimidation, set your school as a leader of the pack.

We sat down with Dr. Edward Placke, Executive Director of Green Chimneys, to find out exactly how their communications and Public Relations teams communicate so effectively with current and prospective families while ensuring the future success of students with disabilities.

You’ll be amazed at how they’re changing the game.

“Green Chimneys: Make a difference in the lives of children and animals”

Just like snowflakes, no two children are the same. Each has his or her own unique abilities, strengths, and passions. In a time of standardized tests and national assessments, it sure feels like schools forget just how unique each learner is.
But Green Chimneys is doing just the opposite. Instead of hiding individuality, they highlight diversity and design a space catered to the needs of each and every individual learner. They do this by setting themselves apart as “a worldwide leader in animal-assisted therapy and educational activities for children with special needs.”
“We provide a world class education to children through an excellent human-animal interaction program.” – Dr. Edward Placke, Executive Director of Green Chimneys
In pairing special needs students with therapy animals, they are looking to foster responsibility, independence, and community. As children spend time with these animals, they build empathy, an essential skill for cultivating relationships and tending to the needs of others.

Empathy is an absolutely essential skill which, among other things, helps to:

Although the human brain is hardwired for empathy, it’s still a muscle that needs to be exercised.

Dr. Edward Placke recognizes these benefits and puts this into practice by bringing together children with special needs and therapy animals. Combine this with a 350-acre natural “classroom”, medical facilities to meet the needs of every individual, and elegant communication techniques, and you have the ingredients to change the world.

So what does this elegant communication look like?

Two ways Green Chimneys uses elegant communication

Dr. Placke and his team face a difficult challenge, one we alluded to previously: How do they effectively get the word out about their mission without intimidating their audience?

In the same way the school is using 21st-century teaching to develop real-world skills, Dr. Placke and his communications team are devoted to a “21st-century strategy regarding marketing.”

How? Transparent communication and agile social-media techniques.

Step 1: Build a world-class website.

Anyone who’s had the chance to visit Green Chimneys’ website immediately recognizes its professionalism and class. Built with clear educational goals in mind, the landing page invites the online community to engage deeply with the mission of Green Chimneys School.

The colorful interface and easily navigable links guide the reader on a journey of reflection and discovery. From the “About Us” page, to each of the programs available – the school, treatment facility, Farm & Wildlife center – and even to the summer camp and outreach opportunities available, there is a clear and apparent goal of transparency in communication.

There’s obviously something for everyone.

This is a strong example of elegant communication, through offering the prospective family or interested community member a perspective into the daily workings of every part of the facility. There is no attempt at secrecy or diversion; every aspect of the Green Chimneys School and daily life are available at the touch of a button.

Dr. Placke’s team designed the site to stand alone and act as an initial point of reference for many of the prospective families sending inquiries every day. He knows that the vision and mission of Green Chimneys School is one of student success, regardless of ability level, and he lets this shine through.

Step 2: Develop agility and resilience on social-media

Another essential aspect of Green Chimneys’ elegant communication is their dedication to 21st-century resources through social-media. But this team knows the danger of casting a wide net.

One of the best ways to disregard advertising resources, waste valuable time, and raise unnecessary frustration is to ignore an essential marketing technique: identify and communicate with a niche market.

There is no need to spread communication across all channels, markets, and communities. Not everyone is looking for a school like yours, and it’s naive to think so. Instead, follow Green Chimneys School’s example and identify a niche market, a specific group of people that would benefit greatly from the services your school offers, and sharpen your focus.

By doing this, you build trust with those who most need your school’s innovative thinking, and you can target a market who is looking for you.

What is Dr. Placke’s vision of elegant marketing? “To reach out to local school districts and parents, and let them know we are here.”

Did you notice the distinction?

There is no mass mailing, cold calling, intimidating door-to-door sales pitch, or endless stream of fliers. Little time is wasted on an advertising or marketing reach that does not fit the target market. Families aren’t inundated with information or hounded for enrollment.

Green Chimneys knows this won’t work.

Instead, their biggest priority is reaching out to school districts and building trust with families and communities in the area by sharing their mission.

Highlighting an average day on Instagram.

Tweeting out an engaging afternoon lesson.

Share the research that supports your vision.

Green Chimneys posts nothing but good vibes by sharing how students of all abilities are capable of great things. You just have to give them the chance.

Wrapping up

In the end, there are so many lessons to take away from Green Chimneys School’s use of elegant communication. It isn’t about intimidating an audience into submission, or casting a wide net and waiting by the phone.

It’s about human connection. It’s building a facility designed to meet the needs of the individual, and focusing on new ways to build the capacity of all learners every day. It’s about how Green Chimneys is setting a new standard for special education pedagogy by focusing on a child’s ability. Simple focus. Elegant communication.