Arts & Education Center

[caption id="attachment_3882" align="alignleft" width="193"]Director of the Arts & Education Center, Tim Blackburn Director of the Arts & Education Center, Tim Blackburn[/caption]Ironstone Farm’s Arts & Education Center provides dynamic programming to many groups of children and young adults with special needs.

This new frontier is one parents have wanted someone to explore for years. Ironstone created this center because many Ironstone Farm parents said their children with special needs needed more programs, including after-school programs, where they were truly included.

[caption id="attachment_4262" align="alignright" width="254"]Skills learned through enjoyable interaction with our horses can be generalized and reinforced through life-skills opportunities at the home-like center. Skills learned through enjoyable interaction with our horses can be generalized and reinforced through life skills opportunities at the home-like center.[/caption]A grant from a Cummings Family Foundation in June of 2014 helped catapult the project forward, and the white home is filling with programs that help people learn a variety of life skills and social skills, while also being a place to discover new talents and hobbies.

How center fits with our mission

Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm’s mission is to provide therapeutic, educational and recreational opportunities using horses and the working farm environment to help people achieve optimum quality of life.

The Ironstone Farm Arts & Education Center can help bring skills learned in the farm environment into a “real life” setting.

The purpose of the center is to give children, teens and young adults education in everyday life skills that will encourage independence, self-confidence and social interaction.


Arts & Education Center at Ironstone Farm can provide:


  • School day life skills programs benefiting children with disabilities in the areas of art and music, movement, cleaning, cooking, social-skill building and outdoor recreation
  • After-school life skills programs benefiting children with disabilities in the areas of art and music, movement, cleaning, cooking, social-skill building and outdoor recreation
  • Programs that combine life skills and equine exposure that can feature hands-on involvement with our horses and with the arts
  • Preschool programs for those aging out of early intervention
  • Educational opportunities for the family members of our constituency

Programs in place for 2016 include:

Valley Collaborative Elementary School uses the center to teach life skills to its students during the school day. Ironstone Farm was highlighted in the Valley Collaborative’s March newsletter.
Three separate classrooms come to Ironstone to work on household skills such as vacuuming, sweeping, making the bed, setting the table, brushing teeth and cooking meals. The Arts & Education Center is also a place where the classes engage in social-skill groups and school-related educational activities.
The center’s home environment is a great place for students to generalize life skills, and other skills, that they can carry over into their own school and home environments. Schools and their students have the opportunity to work on real life skills in an environment appropriate and related to the skills being taught. Students also have the exciting opportunity to interact with horses and learn skills there that can be of benefit in other parts of their lives.

  • CREST Collaborative after-school programs
    CREST is utilizing the Ironstone Farm Arts and Education Center for after-school programs that build life skills, and provide time for art and music activities. Art activities are sent in from the school’s teacher/therapist for Monday afternoons. On Wednesdays, the music therapist comes to create music with the CREST after-school groups. Currently, CREST Collaborative is using the AEC Monday through Thursday for these after-school programs.


    Arts and Education Center details

    The downstairs of the Arts and Education Center houses an art room, a music room and a theater-arts room that can include exercise and movement therapies. The upstairs holds a teaching kitchen, a living/dining area and a bedroom for teens and young adults-in-transition to learn life skills. Among the skills to be taught are cooking, nutrition, health and hygiene, proper etiquette in a social environment, and independence. These will be combined with development of skills in the arts, exposure to cultural activities and general broadening of interests that can lead to improved quality of life. The center will contribute to our core mission by giving young people with disabilities a much needed venue to take their experience on the farm and with the horses into a home setting.

    The upstairs also houses a large meeting room. Its purpose will be to host seminars for families of people with disabilities with professionals in applicable fields. It will give parents and guardians the opportunity to meet, learn about resources available for their loved ones, and create a community of caring.

    Community meeting place
    The beautiful, large meeting room overlooking our pond also has served as a meeting place for community organizations including the boards of the National Association of Professional Women (local chapter), the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, Veterans Assisting Veterans and CLASS, Inc.


    Contact information:

    Tim Blackburn, Director

    978-475-4056 x30


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