Human-Animal-Environment Interactions as a Context for Child and Adolescent Growth


  • Erin Flynn Institute for Human-Animal Connection, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver
  • Alexandra G. Zoller Institute for Human-Animal Connection, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver
  • Megan K. Mueller Institute for Human-Animal Interaction and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
  • Kevin N. Morris Institute for Human-Animal Connection, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver



youth development, nature-based interventions, social emotional learning, human-animal-environment interactions, human-animal bond


Human-animal-environment interaction (HAEI) is increasingly used in special education. While most research of HAEIs has identified effects that broadly support positive special education outcomes, further research of HAEI-based interventions in these environments is needed. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 teaching staff at a special education school that utilizes a range of HAEIs. The teachers are responsible for implementing evidence-based interventions to facilitate social-emotional learning (SEL), so assessing their unique perspectives on the impacts of HAEIs on student SEL outcomes is imperative. Phenomenological coding of the interviews identified 9 major themes that represented positive impacts as well as barriers and challenges experienced by students during HAEIs.


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