THE STORIES WE SHARE
“Bridging the Generations” School Program
Children’s thirst for knowledge and understanding stems primarily from their interaction with the world around them. Given the opportunity to learn about their place in the world, to experience their own connections to the people and places about them, children flourish. The chance to explore those most fundamental of questions — “How did this come to be?” and “What was it like before?” — helps them form a strong foundation for their growth and development, a foundation from which they can build their lives, achieve their full potential and realize their dreams.
For most of us, that foundation is given form by the things we are told, our stories. And it’s the stories that are closest to us that mean the most — the stories that our grandfathers and grandmothers tell us, and those from our neighbours and our elders. It’s the stories about the people who lived here before, their struggles and triumphs, their thoughts and ideas that nurtured their families, built their communities and shaped their world. We all have stories in our lives and they are, in their way, as full of drama and intrigue as any of the great sagas of our history classes. It is our stories that shape us, and make us who we are.
The more opportunities that children have to share the stories of their elders, the better. It is, however, a sad fact of modern life that those opportunities are sometimes hard to come by. Our children are facing a world that is more fractured and segmented than ever, where families are often spread over great distances, and where the pace of life often seems to leave little time for telling stories. This program aims to bridge that gap.
Also, many seniors are now living their later years in dedicated Seniors’ Residences. While these facilities work hard to engage their residents in communal activities, most of those activities are amongst themselves — people of the same age. Many of the residents are becoming increasingly isolated from the broader community, and especially from interactions with younger people. The opportunity meet and talk with children — and, in particular, to be able to share their stories and their life experiences — is of tremendous value. It lifts their spirits, brightens their day and energizes their whole being. This program aims to do just that.
“BRIDGING THE GENERATIONS” is a community-based program that brings together elementary-school aged
children (Grade 5, ages 10-11) with seniors. The children, working in teams of two or three, visit a neighbourhood
seniors residence, armed with a video camera and a series of interview questions that they have previously worked
out. They meet and talk with (interview) selected residents about their lives and about their communities, back
when they were children. “What was it like when you were growing up?” “What kinds of things did you learn in
school when you were in Grade 5?” “What did you do for fun?” And so on, limited only by the children’s curiosity
and the seniors’ memories.
Back in the classroom, the children compile and edit their video interviews, producing a series of vignettes about
the elders’ lives, supplemented by their own research, and learning as they do so, lessons about their own communities
and their own histories. Lessons they will never forget. When the videos are completed, the children revisit the seniors facility, and show their completed works and talk about everything they’ve learned from this engaging project.