The energy of the students continues to run high, producing a charge and buzz which resonates through the seniors living at the Williams Lake Senior’s Village. “The kids are back!” says a resident, with smile on her face.
Indeed, the Grade 5/6 students from Stephen Dickens’ class have just finished an electrifying fifth year of immersion learning called the Intergenerational Program, where seven weeks of the year are spent in that venue.
“We love it when the kids are here,” says Janet Catalano, the activities co-ordinator at Retirement Concepts (Senior’s Village), “the kids bring so much energy to this home of theirs!”
Although this is a positive effect of the Intergenerational Program, it is not a primary objective, Dickens says.
“The program itself has the primary goal of inclusion of seniors who are so often neglected or even bullied in today’s fast paced culture,” Dickens says. “It has a triple pronged approach which aims at achieving this goal.”
When at school at Senior Village, all students are responsible for a chore a week. This is the serving component. There is also the relational aspect where kids are buddied up with a senior for the year and end up fostering very close relationships with that person.
The third part of the triad is the academic side of things which is the responsibility of the teacher. It is very busy for all involved but it certainly has its benefits.
“This was the best school year of my life,” said Hayden, a student in the class in his daily reflections journal, “mostly because of the Intergenerational Program.
“When this is the result of the extra work it takes to run this program, nobody would ever argue that it isn’t worth the effort. Mr. D would be quick to add that this has been the most rewarding program he has been involved with in his nearly 25 years as an educator.”
Dickens says that being able to give back to this program and the benefits it has produced in both senior citizens and the students is important to him.
Starting next year, he says the students from the first Intergenerational program held at Cataline will be graduating and will be able to apply for a bursary they have all worked on and continue to fundraise for annually.
Graduating students in 2017 are encouraged to look for application forms for this bursary which will be available in the high school office, he says.