Service Learning projects that involve students and older adults working together offer unparalleled opportunities for both groups to learn from and provide service to each other in many unique ways. Over the years, we have conducted a great number of intergenerational projects that have brought history alive, have made lasting friendships between young and old, have been a powerful catalyst for teaching and learning, and have been FUN.
During one such intergenerational project, 4th grade students were conducting ongoing interviews with older adults from the Interac Senior Center in Philadelphia. These interviews provided a wealth of living history. In one interview, a student learned that his elder interviewee was a member of the elite Tuskeegee Airmen, the all-African American aviation pursuit squadron of World war II. Another interview yielded a receipt for the interviewees great-grandmother who was a slave in South Carolina. The receipt transferred ownership of great-grandmother from the plantation master to his daughter. Living history! In another interview, an elderly participant told of the time when the site of our school was a pear orchard where she used to climb the trees there. On the site was an old building that had a chip out of the old stone in one of the walls. That divot in the wall was made in 1776 during the Revolutionary War by a musket shell from a Prussian mercenary who was in pursuit of an American irregular soldier. History come alive!
This video documents some of the activities that took place between older adults and 5th graders at a public school in Philadelphia. The project had a strong technology component and a global reach. Take a look...
Other activities included water monitoring of their neighborhood waterway, the Wissahickon Creek, class trips with the older adults, and of course, a great celebration at the end of a successful year.