Future students of a new K-5 Catholic elementary school opening in the Clearview subdivision of Red Deer this September will have the opportunity to experience inter-generational learning thanks to a partnership with a nearby senior’s supported living centre.
Denise Kofin, principal of Father Henri Voisin Elementary School, is thrilled not only to get her school running fully functional, but also to have the chance to integrate students with members of the community to help them learn.
Located only blocks from one another, Father Henri Voisin Elementary School and Villa Maria decided a partnership would be highly beneficial to both the students as well as the residents of the Villa.
Villa Maria, which opened to residents in January, is part of the Catholic health care Covenant Care program.
The Catholic seniors facility and the Catholic kindergarten will be among the many who have begun to realize the potential for intergenerational learning.
Intergenerational Learning describes the way that people of all ages can learn together and from each other.
Although students from countries across the world have been visiting seniors for hundreds of years, the idea of partnerships between seniors’ facilities and schools became increasingly popular in European countries in early 2007 as a method to close the burgeoning gap between generations.
The web site for Europe’s leading group on intergenerational learning, the European Map of Intergenerational Learning states, “This separation can lead to unrealistic, negative stereotypes between generations and a decrease in positive exchanges between them. Yet these separated generations have resources of value to each other and share areas of concern.”
Officials say that intergenerational learning is an effective way to address a number of issues such as building active communities, promoting citizenship, regenerating neighbourhoods and addressing inequality.
“We are looking at some fairly exciting programs within the partnership,” said Kofin. “We are also hoping to see our students doing things like planting seeds and having them grow in the gardens at Villa Maria.”
Kofin continued with saying other potential projects could see students interviewing seniors on Red Deer and Alberta’s history for a yearly Grade four social studies project, as well as having the seniors play math games with the students.
“There are so many things that we can do to benefit both the children and the seniors,” said Kofin. “Things as simple as pairing students and seniors together to make crafts and decorations for the various seasons.”
Above all, Kofin says she hopes students may find positive role models in the seniors.
“I think intergenerational learning gives the students some very good role models and give them someone to look up to,” she said. “Just the whole idea of respect and respecting your elders will be addressed.”
As Father Henri will be a Catholic school, Kofin explained it’s about instructing students on, “The teachings and the gospels of Jesus and actually living that in their everyday lives and doing things the way Jesus would have done them in their own lives and in their communities.”