Building Intergenerational Bridges
Building Intergenerational Bridges

Building Intergenerational Bridges

By Humanities Teacher Gina Marrow with current eighth grade student Mia Fischer. Mia's responses are indented and italicized.

The SilverKite Intergenerational Project has become one of the most cherished and memorable EC eighth grade traditions. We started including this project as part of our eighth grade community service in 2017, and apart from a two-year break during the pandemic, our students have participated every year since then.

Our partner in this project is SilverKite Community Arts, an organization that uses creative art projects to connect communities. Community engagement is one of the core reasons we continue this project at Eastside Catholic. Our students enjoy the opportunity to meet and interview older adults in some of our local senior living communities. In this process, they learn life stories and lessons that touch and inspire them for years to come.

Community engagement is one of the core reasons we continue the SilverKite project at Eastside Catholic.

The project kicks off a few months before the students actually interview the adults at SilverKite. The SilverKite team visits our campus and works with students on interviewing strategies with their future grand-friends. Students learn the correct way to meet and greet older adults, followed by techniques for initiating and sustaining meaningful conversations.

(Shared by Mia): My initial thoughts when I first heard about a project that would involve my entire class interviewing older adults was that I was going to dislike this, or felt I was going to be judged by these older adults. I thought that the whole experience was going to be awkward, and I was worried and anxious about meeting older people.

Over the next few weeks, we were given plenty of time to practice in mock interviews, but I still felt a little worried. I had never done this before so I did not really know how to start or what the older person would be like. I was constantly thinking and worrying that my older person wouldn’t like me.

After several weeks of practice in a series of mock interviews in small groups, our students visit the senior living communities, where they spend up to two hours socializing and interviewing their grand-friends. Upon returning to campus, students start to work on their art project – a memory box decorated with features and embellishments that reflect aspects of each grand-friend’s life story. Students often include small gifts and treats in the boxes.

(Shared by Mia): However, when my group met Kip, all my fears and worries disappeared. He was so welcoming and had the sweetest look on his face when he came up to introduce himself. I relaxed and felt comfortable listening and talking with Kip. He was so kind and had amazing life stories to share and advice to give all of us. I loved every second of listening to him and getting to know him as a person. I learned that he loves cookies, and he told us fun stories about his travels and all the people he met along the way.

When time ran out, I did not want to leave. I was so interested, and I did not want to stop listening and hearing about his life. My grandparents live in the Midwest, and it was quite emotional to connect with someone who was very grandfatherly when talking with us. The very first thing he said to me after I said my name was that I shared the name with his granddaughter.

Kip from SilverKite looks at the box our eighth grade students made for him.

As a school, we value this opportunity to expose our students to our broader community and teach students the importance of empathy, respect and compassion.

A few weeks after the interviews, our grand-friends visit Eastside Catholic School, where our students host them for coffee and pastries and present them with their carefully crafted gift boxes. During this event, SilverKite team members facilitate a discussion where students and grand-friends share their thoughts about this intergenerational project. This is usually an emotion-filled discussion, as the older adults invariably comment on how much they enjoy the our students’ energy, sincerity and enthusiasm.

As a school, we value this opportunity to expose our students to our broader community and teach students the importance of empathy, respect and compassion. Working intergenerationally also helps break down stereotypes and misconceptions, an key aspect of the eighth grade social studies curriculum.

(Shared by Mia):The best part about the whole SKIP experience was meeting a new person and making a connection with someone older. Hearing about his life and understanding him was one of the best experiences I had ever gone through, and I will always remember him. I hope this continues as an eighth grade experience and I hope everyone gets the experience that I did.

Mia Fischer laughs with her group during the SilverKite visit.

Grand-friends and students alike treasure the relationships forged during The SilverKite Intergenerational Project and we are fortunate to enjoy the support of our PTF and administration to continue to offer this cherished opportunity.


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