Thursday, July 7, 2011


"Over the next few months, the district established a preschool and kindergarten classroom in the very heart of Grace Living Center Retirement Home. Surrounded by clear glass walls (with a gap at the top to allow the sounds of the children to filter out), the classroom sits in the foyer of the main building. The children and their teachers go to school there every day as though it were any other classroom. Because it's in the foyer, the residents walk past it at least three times a day to get to their meals.
As soon as the class opened, many of the residents stopped to look through the glass walls at what was going on. The teachers told them that the children were learning to read. One by one, several residents asked if they could help. The teachers were glad to have the assistance, and they quickly set up a program called Book Buddies. The program pairs a member of the retirement home with one of the children. The adults listen to the children read, and they read to them.
The program has had some remarkable results. One is that the majority of the children at the Grace Living Centre are outperforming other children in the district on the state's standardized reading tests.... But the children  are learning much more than how to read. As they sit with their book buddies, the kids have rich conversations with the adults about a wide variety of subjects, and especially about the elders' memories of their childhoods growing up in Oklahoma. The children ask things about how big iPods were when the adults were growing up, and the adults explain that their lives really weren't like the lives that kids have now. This leads to stories about how they lived and played seventy, eighty or even ninety years ago. The children are getting a wonderful textured social history of their hometowns from people who have seen the town evolve over the decades. Parents are so pleased with this extracurricular benefit that a lottery is now required because the demand for the sixty available desks is so strong.
Something else has been going on at the Grace Living Center. though: medication levels there are plummeting. Many of the residents on the program have stopped or cut back on their drugs.
Why is this happening? Because the adult participants in the program have come back to life...... they have a reason to get up in the morning and a renewed excitement about what the day might bring. Because they are reconnecting with their creative energies, they are literally living longer....
In a way the Grace Living Center has restored an ancient, traditional relationship between the generations. The very young and the very old have always had an almost mystical connection. they seem to understand each other in a fundamental, often unspoken way. Our practice in the West is often to keep these generations apart. The Book Buddies program shows in a simple yet profound way the enrichment possible when generations come together. It shows too that the elderly can revive long-lost energies if the circumstances are right and the inspiration is there."
 "THE ELEMENT": Ken Robinson  page 204 - 206.

When you find a great book it's like finding a close friend. Each time you read, it is like a conversation that builds a closer friendship. Here is a great book ~ Sir Ken Robinson's "The Element". I quoted from this book last year, Week 8 Quote 8 

The partnership between the Jenks Primary School and the Grace Living Center Retirement Home began in 1998. It worked because the retirement village "works to eliminate loneliness, helplessness and boredom in aging populations;". The objectives of the school's curriculum " to make learning as engaging and purposeful as we can, focusing on integrating content with real-life ties."
"Elders", if they wish, are part of the whole school day - they can watch the children as they play or go out into the playground themselves. But it is the capacity as "book buddies" or mentors, that the seniors get to know and become known by these 5 year old children. These relationships, like grandma/grandpa with grandchildren, continues to develop as they work together in craft, science, drama and other curriculum subjects.
Teachers in the school say that children in this program are learning values such as compassion, responsibility and perseverance, respect, self-discipline, tolerance, acceptance of physical differences, good listening skills, through living each day in the company of the elders.
"Rich social and emotional learning comes as a response to the environment .... kids observe greeting and touching .... they visit residents in their room, learning to knock and asking permission to enter .... death is dealt with head on."
There is also the "weekly ice cream social" - casual chats between the two generations where natural relationships are in process.
Other documented benefits for the children, are that they discover seniors, despite their physical limitations, have extensive knowledge, motivation, abilities and engaging personalities. So respect and value for elders is acquired by the children from these known experiences, rather than from a series of lessons taught to them.
The benefits for the Elders, includes, an increased understanding of the challenges faced by children, improvement of their self-esteem and self-perception, feeling they are making a contribution to society through being a role model for the children. The program decreases the incidence of seniors isolation or solitary behavior, and increases memory function.
One senior, Laurie Chilcote, said, involvement in intergenerational education had turned his life around. "It's the opposite of a thread you pull and the sweeter comes unravelled. You pull on this thread, and you find yourself connected"
One could read all this and credit the total success in the lives of the two generations, to the program itself. But researchers, teachers and parents in many other similar projects throughout the world, have all pronounced that the success comes from the combining of these two age groups.
So, what is this mystical connection between children and elders? Testing has proven that seniors were more patient listeners than middle-aged adults or young adults, and were relationship orientated in their dealings with children. Is it that elders have more available time to be able to give to children, listen to children? Or are they at a point in life where looking back to their own childhood with its positives and lacks, they wish to support and encourage a new generation in its infancy?
"A child needs a grandparent, anybody's grandparent, to grow a little more securely in an unfamiliar world." Charles and Ann Morse.
"What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And most importantly, cookies." Rudolph Giulliani.
"Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day, and now the day was complete." Marcy De Maree.

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ do your kids have grandparents or seniors involved in their lives in a vital way? Do you see that mystical connection between them, that brings happiness, depth and fulfillment into the lives of both? If not, would it be something you could 'work-on' for your children's sake?

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