Intergenerational interactions between Anglophone North (ASD-N) students and seniors have resulted in numerous engaging and motivational learning opportunities. Through a “New Horizons for Seniors” grant from Social Development Canada, ASD-N was able to purchase technology equipment for Shannex residents to use so they could continue their communications with students during the Covid-19 pandemic. Equipment was also provided to students to continue documenting these interactions. This program partnership with Shannex offers students the opportunity to learn about life experiences of seniors in their community – opening their eyes to lives lived by a different generation. The senior storytellers reflected on their life stories and the important wisdom and lessons they’ve learned over the years. While visiting, students were able to capture these stories with the equipment provided for future reference in their classrooms.
With this grant, Max Aitken Academy (MAA) students had the opportunity to be mentored by Iron House Productions in producing two videos. The first video features Edith Parks at Losier Hall and focuses on her love for cooking and feeding others. The video highlights her work at one of Miramichi’s most famous landmarks, Parks’ Dairy. The second video features the life of Cecil Mullin, a World War II Veteran who lives at Bridgeview Hall. When interviewed, Cecil encouraged students to be honest and do their best on the courses they take in school. He added that even though he took many courses during his lifetime, having recently celebrated his 100th birthday, he has decided to retire from taking any more. In sharing this advice with students, he is just one of many seniors who will continue to help Shannex create some of the most prolific and rewarding lifelong learning classrooms for Anglophone North students and teachers.
MAA students also produced a booklet of stories from their meetings, titled Christmas Past, by virtually interviewing four Bridgeview Hall residents. Student projects at Bridgeview and Losier Halls have precipitated other undertakings with seniors in ASD-N. Students at Bathurst High School filmed an interview for their history course with 97-year-old Briddy Payne, a Dutch WW2 survivor. Students in ASD-N’s ICE Centre “Intro to Teaching” course created a podcast with 93-year-old Betty Clancy about her experiences as both a student and a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse.
In recognition of the contribution students and teachers have made engaging residents and staff with their many activities, Shannex awarded Anglophone North its “Volunteer Excellence Award” at its gala dinner in Halifax.
Krista Page, Vice-Principal of Max Aitken Academy, has facilitated most of the intergenerational connections between her students and Shannex residents. When asked to reflect on these experiences, she noted:
My entire career as a music teacher saw me take my choirs to seniors’ homes during the Christmas season, to carol. I loved to watch the interaction between the seniors and my students. As an administrator I sought other ways to make connections, through interviews with Seniors, special events and gardening.
When my own mother resided at a local home, I understood the importance of the children’s visit for the seniors. This was something everyone anticipated long before their visit. For many seniors, sadly, it was the only visitation they received to brighten their days. This encouraged me to find more creative ways to get the children involved with the seniors.
From the school viewpoint, it was an opportunity for youth to sit and chat face to face with a senior. Some of our children have not been ‘exposed’ to elderly people and were not comfortable at first. Once the meeting took place, youth and seniors truly looked forward to the visits with excitement.
The opportunity to visit and provide companionship for seniors works two-fold. It is an opportunity to lift their spirits and an opportunity to teach compassion and respect for our youth.
For more information on experiential learning opportunities in New Brunswick, interested employers and students can check out more success stories at https://futurenewbrunswick.ca/.
Edith Parks, Losier Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyF4Nb2DGn0
Cecil Mullin, Bridgeview Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnHwkk6ZIhc