Over the past couple of weeks, I have met with a number of Social Studies teachers from public and private schools in the area to discuss possible connections between their students and Hebrew SeniorLife residents. I was struck by the passion of these educators to free themselves further from textbooks and lectures and bring real world history to the students through multigenerational programming.
I often hear from residents that they’re not teachers and they don’t feel they have that much to share. Quite the contrary! Anyone older than 75 was born before WWII began. Older adults can offer a first hand account of what it was like to be alive during such a tumultuous time in our world’s history.
I am in the process of helping a local social studies teacher create a program to bring a variety of aspects of the war to life for his students: women during the war, propaganda, Japanese internment, responses to the atomic bomb, Holocaust survivor stories, minority representation in the service, and more. Students will research these topics and older adults will share their perspectives and experiences to bring life and meaning to classroom-based research. For the students this method of education can be invaluable. Through this type of learning they are able to grow—strengthening empathy, their respect for others, and increasing classroom engagement through dialogue, all critical social skills that are often absent from the typical classroom experience. As for the seniors, this work embodies the fulfillment of personal interaction and often provides relevance for their rich personal experiences.
I look forward to continuing to work with Social Studies teachers in our communities to create more opportunities for such rich multigenerational programming.