Students, staff, parents and members of our broader Lockyer Valley community gathered together in celebration, as our Year 7 Intergenerational Connections project drew to a conclusion on Saturday 30 July. Arriving to a day of brilliant weather to reflect on quite a special project for our youngest students at Faith, guests were treated to a showcase of performances and presentations which spoke to the enormous value and benefit that participating in the project held for both the young and old alike.
The project, which was delivered in partnership with Bolton Clarke Residential Communities, saw Year 7 students and elderly members of our local community meet together to exchange memories, stories and perspectives in the interest of exploring local history through primary sources. Acting as ‘living libraries’ and engaging fortnightly both face-to-face and through video conferencing across an entire school term, students and their older ‘buddies’ identified shared interests, which became the topics for discussion and exploration of changes in society, geography, and the environment over time. The students were then tasked with translating their learning into digital stories, which could be shared with others, providing a creative and reflective element that served as the basis for an exhibition of collected and translated history.
For the participants and volunteers from Westhaven Retirement Village and our local community, the project also served a key purpose in broader research being undertaken by Xanthe Golenko, a Research Fellow with Bolton Clarke, on utilising storytelling and reminiscence to build connections, improve wellbeing and reduce loneliness for residents living in residential aged care:
“Adding an intergenerational component to digital storytelling provides the opportunity for old and young to work together on a meaningful activity, which helps to develop relationships across the generations that are mutually beneficial and create a sense of community… It’s wonderful to [have seen] the joy that residents experience as they share details about their lives with the students.”
Working together over a number of weeks, many students and participants were also quick to point out that they viewed each other not only as project partners but as friends – friends who spanned multiple generations of life, and who could learn equally from each other. A sentiment shared by participant and Westhaven resident, Marlene:
“It’s really valuable to both sides to hear each other’s perspective. It’s been a buzz to meet these girls who have a real interest in what I have to teach them… The best thing about the intergenerational program is knowing the benefits that I am giving out to the students – I am getting back.”
Guests attending the project celebrations were treated to a viewing of the digital works produced by the Year 7 students, as well as some personal reflections from both students and their project partners, before a special premiere of a documentary produced by students from Griffith University. The short film, which was filmed on campus at Faith Lutheran College, captured the project from a number of different perspectives and featured interviews that highlighted the positive experiences for all involved.
Following the formal portion of the afternoon, guests were invited to an exhibition of student work, bringing the project full-circle, as students shared the stories they had translated with the broader community. Reflecting on the success of the project, Head of Learning Curriculum and Year 7, Mrs. Cassie Richardson, shared her enthusiasm for the prospect of continuing the project into the future:
“I’d love to see this become a permanent part of our curriculum. The positive learning outcomes, the work we’ve seen from the students, and the genuine connection we’ve observed for everyone involved – this could become an integral part of our learning in Year 7. It’s just been brilliant.”