Category Archives: Intergenerational Community

Community

Posted October 27, 2016

 

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By Sarah Kern

You may have heard it when you first visited All Seasons or read it in a daily list or newsletter. If there is one word that could possibly sum up our preschool, it’s community. Every day we work to build communities, large and small, all of which are connected to one another by shared people and shared experiences.

The smallest communities are our classrooms, united early by shared space and experience, and later by friendship and love. We extend these communities by adding the families, who share fellowship in brief moments at pick up and drop off, and deeper experiences at conferences, family parties, and playdates. Slowly but surely, we invite one another into our lives.

Similarly, the senior community exists first as its own entity, then expands to include the seniors’ families. Then, like magic, our upstairs and downstairs communities connect, and our circles grow ever wider. Beyond a shared space, it’s shared people that bring us together.

Consider Sue, Inver Glen’s Activities Director; early in the year, she is one of the most direct links between the preschoolers and the seniors. She is a familiar face in our school and upstairs, and her voice and songs connect both groups as they sing together in memory care and the community room.

Steve, Inver Glen’s maintenance man, is another link. He’s our community’s real-life superhero who rescues the seniors when a light is burnt out and the preschoolers when there is a pipe leak.

While much of our community is created without effort, there are elements of community we work diligently and intentionally to build and preserve. Much of this effort comes through rituals – shaking hands to greet and say goodbye, repeating activities on a weekly basis, having the same group of kids visit Memory Care East and Memory Care West every day. There are also the spontaneous moments that build community – visiting a grandma who is sick, delivering thank you cards to seniors who make donations to our school, and saying hello to seniors we pass in the hallways, often with a giant bear hug.

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Over and over again, the worlds of the preschoolers and the seniors collide – intentionally and unintentionally. We see Grandma Marion out for a walk every day. We gather for an art project in the community room. We wave to the grandmas getting their hair done in the salon. It’s all part of the process; it’s all part of community.

A Perfect Match

Posted February 18, 2016

by Amy Lemieux
The Little Boy and the Old Man   by Shel Silverstein
Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do that too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.

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I often use this poem to help people understand the ideal pairing between two age groups that, while far apart chronologically, have much in common. Retrogenesis is the theory that with dementia, the brain deteriorates in the reverse order of which it developed. Once seniors reach the middle stage of retrogenesis they need more supervision and become cognitively and functionally similar to preschoolers. Characteristics of both groups include; concrete, not abstract thinking, taking in information through the senses, short attention spans and being easily distracted, enjoying repetition and familiarity, are ego-centric and concerned with their own wants and needs.

When people learn we are a preschool inside of a senior building, they have one of two reactions; What a great idea! Or Why would you have little children with old people? While Silverstein’s poem tugs at the heartstrings and illustrates a deep psychological connection, it is equally important to articulate the research that supports this wonderful match. The research to support the benefits of intergenerational programming is strong and consistent. Long-term studies show lasting benefits to young and old who spend time together.
What does an intergenerational program DO for seniors?
It decreases boredom, loneliness, and helplessness, all things positively correlated with depression, heart problems, and a weakened immune system. In some facilities with intergenerational programming medication levels decrease.
What does an intergenerational program DO for children? It increases empathy, vocabulary and reading scores, and improves the quality of social interactions. It decreases misbehavior. These effects are long-term.
Under what conditions do children, families and communities flourish?
Renowned psychologist and author, Mary Pipher, writes, “Many communities are realizing the value of projects that connect the young and old. Older people are often wiser and less stressed than the rest of us and they have more time and patience.” Seniors are not checking their watches, laptops or phones constantly. Young children need the wisdom and patience of the older generation and older people need the innocence and vitality that only a young child can offer.
“You can have a nursing home that strives for the absence of pain, but that isn’t enough. There needs to be the presence of joy.” – John Greiner from Grace Living Center.

Mondays on East

Posted May 1, 2015

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by Amanda Janquart

 Grandma Bette is all ours on Wednesdays. She began the year as our Spring Room weekly reader and has become so much more than that. We wheel her down the halls and into our class where she has joined us for snacks, listened with patience to preschoolers’ stories, and become a champion of their play with children scrambling to show her their latest creations. Fridays have consistently included passing around cups of popcorn and watching old cartoons or movies like Mary Poppins with the grandmas and grandpas on Willow Cove East. We have a routine and it works. Mondays however, have gone through multiple transformations – always with the residents on Willow Cove East, but with changes in the activities the generations share.

In the fall, Sue Hastings, the Activities Director (and talented musician and joyful person and loving caretaker) played the piano and led us all in songs. The songs were carefully chosen and bring out tenderness and reflection in the seniors; connection in the children. The slow songs, Home on the Range and Edelweiss, can bring me to tears the way they evoke longing. But I darn near sobbed the first time Take Me Out to the Ballgame was sung. It was as if fireworks were going off, the way everyone took notice and joined in. Music is a mighty strong bridge. I couldn’t help but see my own Grandma Grace whenever Sue chose How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

As winter approached, Rhythm Band started up. Shakers were passed out to the grandmas and grandpas and children took turns on the triangles, bells, rhythm sticks, wood blocks, cymbals, and drums (limited to two at a time!). We again took cues from Sue as she directed which instruments to come in and when. Sometimes residents covered their ears, but really though, the group worked hard and we sure sounded great most of the time.

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Spring has come and so have cooking projects and table games. Residents of Willow Cove East sit at the tables and children stand between them; a generational daisy chain. We have made edible necklaces by stringing cereal on yarn, dyed eggs, and peeled eggs, adding carrot ears and whiskers to make bunny eggs. On our latest visit, baskets of various blocks were interspersed at the tables and everyone kept busy, either creating with the blocks or simply sitting back and taking it all in. When I stepped back myself, under the guise of wanting to take a picture, my eyes started to fill up yet again. Good things are happening here.

 

 

Grandma Pat’s Here!

Posted March 13, 2015

By Sarah Kern                                                      IMG_4802

We recently added someone new to our rotation of senior readers in the Autumn Room. We call her Grandma Pat, and her role is a little different than those of our other senior readers. Rather than reading to the whole class, Grandma Pat reads to one or two children at a time on our couch. When I suggested that we add a small group reader, I was thinking all about literacy. The children would have closer proximity to the print and they could ask questions and discuss story details more easily than in a large group setting. But what’s happened has been so much more than that.

I noticed that the children’s interactions with Grandma Pat were as much conversation as they were book reading. Children showed Grandma Pat their braids, told her about their favorite video games, and asked her about her glasses. And Grandma Pat? She listened. She listened with attention and intensity. She smiled, she asked them questions, and she responded to every word they said.

Spring Room Teacher and mom to Isla, Amanda watched this happen through the classroom window. Isla was sitting with Grandma Pat, deep in conversation. I noted to Amanda something along the lines of how this was intended to be a reading experience, and Amanda astutely pointed out that Grandma Pat, though not reading for much of the time she’s here, was meeting a need for the children. It’s the need that so often I as a teacher struggle to meet because it’s time to have snack, or it’s time to go outside, or it’s time to clean up. It’s the need for an adult to hear them and know them and love them wholeheartedly.

When I first met Amy and she told me of her inspiration for this intergenerational program, she told me that the seniors have something to offer to the children that we as teachers and as parents can struggle to give, and that’s time. It is time and undivided attention. We can’t help that we have full time jobs and families and houses to care for, but we can help how we treat the space in between all of those things. Grandma Pat is teaching me how to make little moments bigger just by moving a little slower, being a little quieter, and listening a little more.

Cooking With Young Children

Posted February 18, 2015

By Jenny Kleppe

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At All Seasons Preschool, cooking is a regular activity. Children help read recipes, prepare and mix ingredients, and we enjoy the fruits of our labors at snack time. We focus on healthy recipes that all students can enjoy. This can be tricky when taking multiple allergies and food sensitivities into account. Why do our teachers make sure to incorporate food experiences into our day? First and foremost, cooking and baking are fun for all! Regardless of age or ability, everyone can participate in some part of the process. The sensory experience of preparing and eating food elicits positive associations and memories. It fosters community and is a simple way to create a sense of togetherness.
Much of my personal philosophy regarding food and young children comes from the book Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. In her book, Druckerman describes how cooking and baking with very young children teaches self-control. “With its orderly measuring and sequencing of ingredients, baking is a perfect lesson in patience” (pg. 64). She goes on to describe how typical French families bake together every weekend, and that by age three or four most children can make an entire cake independently. Below is a typical yogurt cake prepared in French households that I have made with preschoolers using minimal to no adult assistance!
There are additional reasons we incorporate cooking activities into our school day. Cooking and baking at home or in the classroom can teach important life skills, including:
Fine motor skills: Cooking tools from melon ballers to graters help kids strengthen their hand and fine motor muscles, as well as strengthen hand-eye coordination.
Delay of gratification: Cooking requires patience. Several steps are required before enjoying the results.
Scientific change: Water freezes and boils, jello hardens, solids are ground to a fine powder, cakes go from batter to baked. Mixing ingredients and watching their creations change states teaches kids basic principles of science.
Literacy: Your average recipe involves sequencing, identifying letters, and recognizing common ingredient words (butter, milk, flour).
Math: Cooking involves counting (one teaspoon, three tablespoons, stir twenty times), measuring by volume, identifying numbers, doing steps in an order, and other math concepts (half and whole).
Food history and making connections: Adults can use family recipes to talk about Grandma’s experience during the Depression, why we make things with apples in the fall, or to pass along family traditions. This aspect of cooking is especially near and dear to us at All Seasons, where we make as many intergenerational connections as possible with our seniors.
Sensory Experiences: Adults can encourage children to use expressive words to describe how something tastes, feels, smells, sounds, and looks.
Experimentation and creativity: Cooking allows kids to make decisions about their food, from adding an extra sprinkle to the top of a cupcake to stop stirring the muffin batter. It’s all about experimenting—learning what works and what doesn’t—a skill that will carry over into other areas of their lives.
Don’t be intimidated by cooking with preschoolers. They will love the attention and time spent together, regardless of the outcome. Even if a cooking or baking activity fails, or the kids just don’t like it, you did it together! It usually creates wonderful learning opportunities and memories none-the-less!

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French Yogurt Cake
2- 6 oz containers plain or whole milk yogurt (use the empty containers to measure all the other ingredients) **
2 eggs or egg substitute
1 container sugar (or 2 if you’d like a sweeter cake)
1 tsp vanilla
Just under 1 container vegetable oil
4 containers flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 375. Use vegetable oil to grease a loaf pan or 9in round pan. Gently combine yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla and oil. Have children crack eggs into a separate bowl first in case egg shell remnants need to be removed. Add eggs to main bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mix gently until ingredients are just combined. Add 2 containers of frozen berries, or 1 container of chocolate chips, or any flavoring you like (1 tsp. almond extract and extra sliced almonds on top is a favorite of mine!) Bake for 35 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test. Let it cool.
**note, if you use vanilla yogurt, omit vanilla from recipe. Recipe works with coconut yogurt, but not soy yogurt

Holidays in the Schools?

Posted January 26, 2015

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by Amy Lemieux, Director

I have always been opposed to celebrating holidays in schools for many reasons. I attended an elementary school where about 20% of the students were Jewish, yet we did Secret Santas every year, Santa came to our classroom, and we sang Christmas songs. Despite throwing in one dreidel song, it always felt wrong, though I was too young to articulate why.
Once I became an elementary teacher, my aversion to holidays in the schools intensified. I saw the students who felt left out because it wasn’t “their” holiday, the ones who couldn’t afford to buy an elaborate Halloween costume or give everyone in the class a goody bag full of candy to go with a mass-produced valentine. I resented the chaos and poor behavior each holiday created and felt powerless to prevent it, as holidays were celebrated school-wide. As an educator who regularly noted how far behind U.S. students were and how large the racial achievement gap was, taking many hours or even full days away from learning to celebrate holidays felt unproductive and trivial. Happily, my school’s new principal felt like I did and as quickly as she could, she changed our school’s approach to the holidays.
Why, then, do we celebrate holidays at All Seasons?
Celebrating the holidays at Inver Glen and All Seasons has changed my attitude entirely because we do it so differently! Here, celebrating feels natural and authentic because it is; it happens within the context of a community. With each celebration, we are able to tell the children, “These are things the grandmas and grandpas did when they were little.” The children dye eggs with the grandmas and grandpas and then the seniors hide the eggs for the children to find. We sing old songs the seniors grew up singing – holiday songs and many others. Our Halloween parade has a real audience. Our Mardi Gras parade, complete with floats designed on tricycles and real zydeco instruments, is only complete because we are doing it for someone else and spread such joy up and down the hallways as we pass out beads. Next month we will spend several days hand-making old fashioned valentines for the grandmas and grandpas who live in the memory care units. The children will carefully and painstakingly write the names of the seniors on the valentines and deliver them in person. Celebrating the holidays here has been a source of genuine pride and joy for everyone.

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Out on a Limb…With a Wheel Chair

Posted November 24, 2014

by Amanda Janquart, Spring Room Teacher

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Forming intergenerational connections is a strong tenet of our curriculum at All Seasons. It can be exciting and scary at the same time. I do believe that overcoming fear leads to a deeper sense of accomplishment, and takes us to a point where multifaceted learning happens. The fleeting nature of our lives becomes more apparent as we age. Forming a relationship with Grandma Bette, our classroom grandma, evoked fears in me, and perhaps spoke to a larger cultural issue. It meant opening up to the possibilities of heartache. But it is now harder to imagine what would have been lost if I’d let worry stop me. Along with being the Spring Room’s weekly story reader, Grandma Bette has become a part of our class’ story. She is who the children want to build ships for, make cards for, parade in costumes for. Children push us to take emotional leaps just as we encourage them to do the same. They can plow through countless obstacles without a backward glance. I have been thoroughly humbled by their example.

I’ll share a recap of a recent morning in the Spring Room, one with a focus on our relationships:

There were numerous examples of how comfortable this class has become – with the environment and each other. Outside, they requested the “roll the ball down the hill” game, then moved seamlessly to basketball, which was near the trikes, so riding them was next. They helped each other back onto the sidewalk when tires slipped off (those darn “flat tires” became quite comical), and reinforced what the street signs meant – One Way and Stop. They did all of this with such camaraderie and compassion, calling out support as well as lending a hand. They rocked at clean up too, “Hey, I’ll put that ball back for you” and “Yep, the shed is all shut.” But by far, their strength of relationships was showcased that morning when we went to get Grandma Bette to spend time with us in our classroom. They urged each other to hurry with snack (cheese and apples) so we wouldn’t be late to get her. They cleared chairs out of the way so I could push her wheel chair through the dining area. They very excitedly pointed out new photos of themselves in the hall – “That’s me, Grandma Bette!!!” They warned her repeatedly about how to keep her fingers safe in the elevator. In the room they got to work immediately on what they had earlier planned out to show her – the magnatile rocket, the pumpkins in the kitchen, and the triumphant (if temporary) return of the marble run tower. It was unclear who was most excited; the boys or Bette.  She met one of our stick bug pets and was “served” a few wooden cookies before Amy helped her back upstairs. Before she left, she was already asking about her next visit.

Yes, starting a relationship can feel awkward as an adult. The hugs and handshakes can feel rote, but keep going and get past that stage. I can say that compassion is contagious and if you feel any hesitancy, follow a child’s lead (new beginnings are a constant in young lives and they don’t waste time getting to the point where it feels good). Or, follow the senior’s lead; (they are done wasting time on what doesn’t matter). Oh, how I’ve failed to find out Bette’s perspective in all this relationship forming! Perhaps because it will be a little scary to ask and then listen, not knowing where it will lead? I’m sure to be humbled yet again.

Raising Kids Who Are Kind

Posted September 26, 2014

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Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project “aims to strengthen the abilities of parents and caretakers, schools, and community members to develop caring, ethical children. (They’re) working to make these values live and breathe in the day-to-day interactions of every school and home.”  At All Seasons, we focus on cultivating a community of kindness and caring. We live in a culture that values achievement over caring, and sometimes it feels like we are swimming upstream when we choose to be kind over being powerful. Amongst all the research, one thing is clear: Kindness and empathy must be taught. Making Caring Common presents five strategies to raise moral, caring children: 1. Make caring for others a priority. It’s important for parents and teachers to model this behavior. We also must hold children to high ethical standards, including staying true to their word and honoring commitments, even when it’s hard. Children should also be expected to be respectful towards adults, even when tired, angry, or distracted. Phrases like, “The most important thing is that you are kind” can really hammer this home. 2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude. Research shows that people who regularly practice gratitude are more likely to be compassionate, forgiving and helpful. To implement this, provide regular opportunities to express gratitude, such as at dinnertime or at bedtime. Don’t reward children for every act of helpfulness, such as helping around the house or helping a friend – these things should be expected. Reward uncommon acts of kindness.  3. Expand your child’s circle of concern. Children care about their own small circle of friends and family; the goal is to help them care about someone outside of their own circle as well. To help children achieve this, expect them to be polite and friendly with all people, even waiters or the mail carrier. At All Seasons, we expand children’s circles of concern through our relationships with the seniors. Ask your children about their favorite senior, and encourage acts of kindness. 4. Model kindness and moral behavior. Children learn their values by watching adults who are important to them. Think through dilemmas out loud with your children so they can hear how you problem solve with kindness. You can also model caring by volunteering with your child. 5. Guide children in managing hard feelings. We need children to know that it is okay to feel angry, sad, or frustrated. We also need to teach them how to cope with these feelings. Practice helping your child calm down and express his or her feelings when upset, and model your own coping skills for tough feelings when appropriate. It is important to remember that “Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood.” Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/18/are-you-raising-nice-kids-a-harvard-psychologist-gives-5-ways-to-raise-them-to-be-kind/

September – Back to school!

Posted August 25, 2014

For most children, the first day of school is often equal parts anxiety and excitement, while adults want total excitement without the anxiety.  But how can it be?

Without a doubt, there will be great excitement!  This is a day that has been talked about for weeks, even months.  The school is full of different toys, exciting outdoor spaces, and eager faces.  The possibilities to make new friends is endless.  But with new experiences also comes uncertainty.

Imagine being three or four (or five, as we witnessed our graduates contemplating the wide world of kindergarten) and being dropped off at a place we have only visited once or twice in the long-ago spring or summer.  The people who love us best wave goodbye as they head off to work, or worse – home with a younger sibling and not us!  At the same time, parents are feeling their own anxiety as goodbyes are being said.  Without a doubt, there will be some anxiety.

In truth, every parent and every child is different.  Some parents need reassurance for some time, from teachers and from their own child.  While some children might leap right in, even approaching a likely playmate with, “Hi, wanna play with me?” others prefer to paint at the corner easel for the first half hour while they get their bearings.

At All Seasons, as with any good early childhood setting, we greet each child at the door.  Each child has his/her own temperament, own family, own identity and own culture.  For the hours of school, we come together to form a cooperative community, but we try never to lose sight of each child’s particular gifts and needs.

Upstairs, we have the perfect helpers in this area – the grandmas and grandpas of Inver Glen.  Their delight and patience with the children help us all to remember the words of that wise and gentle teacher, Mr. Rogers– “I like you just the way you are.”