Kidston School and Coldstream Retirement Community have much to be proud of as their star participant in the Meadows School Project, Marie Firth, turns 100, and is still singing the praises of the intergenerational immersion project that had its start in this community.
Carly Alexander, a recent secondary school graduate, presented Firth with a bound copy of the 10 children’s stories that author Firth penned over a decade. Alexander, along with other intermediate students, illustrated each book, and profits from sales of the inter-generationally produced series fund an annual School District 22 scholarship, of which Alexander was the 2015 recipient.
These stories have become the internationally renowned Intergenerational Literacy Project and have been used and recognized as far off as England and Australia and featured by ReadingWorldwide.com out of Europe, as exceptional practice.
The Meadows School Project (2000 to 2008) relocated an intermediate class of students to a makeshift classroom at Coldstream Retirement Community. The students attended school at the facility, five weeks in the fall, three in the spring, with regular re-connecting throughout the school year. Students and seniors shared government mandated curriculum, public service and one-on-one relationship building.
Former participants of the Meadows School Project founded the i2i Intergenerational Society in 2008 to take the message out to the world about the importance and the power of intergenerational connecting.
Firth has sat on the Board of i2i for eight years and recently shared her thoughts on her experience with the Meadows School Project.
“The children came every day for two months. They spread out through the building, mixing with the seniors. Hence the saying, ‘Whose Grandma Are You?’ (short of the same title at intergenerational.ca, Jim Elderton, filmmaker).
“Each youngster took a proxy grandparent from the senior group and formed a group of their own. The children took turns working in the small general store with us, in the dining room setting tables, at arts and crafts and outside in our lovely grounds playing badminton, horseshoes and bocce. We even did some drawing, spelling bees, reading and writing stories, cooking, and singing. We worked together on a plan for learning. They shared their schoolwork.
“We helped them and they helped us. My birthday wish is to have the children back again.”
A prototype of the Meadows School Project is in its fifth transformative year at Williams Lake Retirement Community. The project started there with principal Mike Grace, now remarkably at the helm at Kidston, the project’s birthplace.
Intergenerational connecting is becoming a strong force across Canada and worldwide. Those touched by it are pushing for its recognition and implementation of initiatives to unleash this much under-accessed yet powerful personal connection between generations.
June 1 Intergenerational Day Canada, founded by i2i in 2011, is recognized by provincial and territorial governments, and by more than 100 municipalities.
Ahead of its time, and now internationally recognized, i2i Intergenerational Society is led by president Sam Nolan (student in the project’s first year), and directors Sarah Hanson, Rob Kjarsgaard, Bruce Aikenhead, Dr. Sharon McCoubrey, Janet Catalano and five others across Canada, along with former teacher and executive cirector, Sharon MacKenzie. It is their hope that this article will stimulate interest with educators and community participants to check out intergenerational.ca and participate in moving this initiative forward.
Intergenerational connecting is simple, though not simplistic in its implementation, fun at all levels, and truly links two generations in breaking down stereotypes, ageist attitudes and fear of growing older. As isolation and loneliness have been ranked the top health issue in Canada, one must note that making friends between generations can only be a very good thing.
Visit intergenerational.ca for more information.