Building Community

By Dr. Kim Bloomer, co-founder and President of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy

When Dr. Jeannie Thomason and I founded the American Council of Animal Naturopathy as a distance learning educational platform, we didn’t foresee at the time a need for community.

An interesting thing has happened along the way though. We have continued to expand and build on the foundation of our coursework and for awhile that’s all we thought we needed to do. However, somewhere in the back of our minds, we always felt we were lacking something – and that something was a true connection with our students.

Sure we had our email study group and students would interact there – occasionally. Something was definitely missing though and that was community! How do you have an interactive community online with a distance learning school in natural animal health? Most animal people are going to be out working with animals and not much interested in being online doing much “connecting“. In fact one of the reasons the online learning environment appeals to our students is because they already lead busy lives, with most running full time businesses and/or working full time jobs. The last thing they wanted or needed was to have to also interact in a community online.

Or was it?

There is no shame in not knowing something. The shame is in not being willing to learn. ~Alison Croggon

When I made some changes to the program thinking it was simply “business” decisions, I found out in a hurry that if it affected students and/or their studies in ANY way, shape or form I better include them in that decision process. That little interaction showed me rather quickly how much they did desire to be included in SOME kind of community, even if it was to give us feedback that had a sting to it, it was at least some feedback and an opportunity to interact with the “real” people behind the names on the student intake forms.

Dr. Jeannie and I decided that we needed to have a study group and the best place for it was on Facebook for us since we are active there and many of our students found us through Facebook or through our podcast. And to take it a step further since some found us through our podcast, why not have an educational audio chat with them monthly as well in a discussion format so as to include them? And our monthly audio chats were born.

The audio chats have been so exciting to me because while I may lead out and introduce the topic together with Dr. Jeannie and Dr. Sarah Reagan (our equine instructor), our students who attend the live session (we record it for those not able to attend live) has introduced some interesting discussion on the various topics from parasites to perceived abnormalities observed in nature. The topics are different than what they learn in the coursework although we are incorporating some of the chats into the coursework over time.

We have not graduated to video interaction YET but I suspect Google Hangouts may be looming in our future.

Our students are sharing on the Facebook group; topics and things we may never have thought to share or discuss ourselves. It truly is an interactive community with everyone, the student and the teacher! It’s been really fun getting to know them better, learning their passions, interests and goals. Even more interesting has been learning how incredibly talented and knowledgeable they all are!

We decided to share all this to emphasize the importance of community – and the same goes for animals. They thrive on community with their own species. The American Council of Animal Naturopathy is engaged in encouraging humans to learn what animals need from the animals’ perspective over the convenience and needs of the human. That isn’t to negate the human component, but rather to enhance it. We invite you to join us to find out exactly what that means.

Awareness is the greatest agent for change. ~Eckhart Tolle