“The most effective learning usually does not come from classroom lectures or always translate on standardized tests. I witnessed academic and affective growth by students as a direct result of their interactions with the elderly. Growth occurred when the two groups became involved in meaningful projects such as letter writing, storytelling, biography writing, arts and crafts, and performing arts. This excellent educational approach to teaching and learning that connects classroom learning with meeting community needs is called service-learning. Research shows that students derive many benefits in areas of academic achievement, enthusiasm for learning, caring for others, and greater civic and political engagement through involvement in service learning."
When I was a teacher, I took students on service-learning field trips to nursing homes. Students practiced educational skills, showcased their talents, and provided entertainment and companionship to residents. Residents also benefited from these exchanges. Our trips came about after extensive preparation between the intergenerational partners and included ongoing reflection and evaluation.
I encouraged schoolwide service learning with all staff and students. We became a national model for research-based, schoolwide service-learning. You can read research our fourth graders did in partnership with nursing home residents on ageism stereotypes here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/intergenerational-service-learning-student-nursing-home-parker?trk=mp-author-card
What is service-learning in practice? This Better TV video defines service-learning and explains how it is used by schools and community groups to improve communities and promote positive development in young people.
Frances Shani Parker, Author
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