Intergenerational Learning TOY (Together Old & Young) Project
A special blog feature from Bernie Pentony, St. John’s JNS, Drogheda
In May 2018, our Early Years pre-school was fortunate to secure one of the limited places on the TOY project, which is an Intergenerational Learning (IGL) initiatives programme. In essence, it is about bringing young children and senior citizens in our community together to share their experiences, so that they can learn with and from each other.
Through the support and recommendation of The Genesis Programme Project Team, training was available to one staff member to represent our setting. Technological University of Dublin (TUD) in junction with the Erasmus Programme of the European Union provided training over a six-week period, delivered through online modules and face-to-face classes. Following training participants could plan and prepare their own IGL project to suit the needs of their setting and those within the local community.
The following is an overview of our approach to incorporating the TOY project within our setting and within our local community.
Our first initiative involved a visit to our local Men’s Shed Project in Drogheda. All children accompanied by their parents/guardians and staff enjoyed a short walk to their establishment. Some of the members, who gave us all a tour of the various areas, warmly greeted us. It was lovely to go into each area and see members actually engaged in their work. They too joined in by really engaging in a Show and Tell about their work. Children were given hands on experience to handle some of the products made and to see some being made etc. This was fantastic and the interest and active collaboration between young and old was emerging positively as the visit progressed. The showroom was a particular highlight of the visit as the parents and children interacted with different members, who on hand to show off the various variety of products that were made. Many of which were children’s toys (Dolls Houses, wooden pull along vehicles, wooden horses, board games) other items were for the outdoor/garden area and some lovely decorative products for the home. Christmas cribs fully furnished with figures/animals etc.
After the final tour of the main active facilities, we entered the recreational room. Many members were already there and welcomed us with positive comments and gestures. A large pool table grabbed the children’s attention and they naturally gravitated towards the members playing here. It was heart-warming to witness the interactions that followed here. TOY was clearly witnessed, as children and seniors chatted and gave handshakes and high fives to each other. The atmosphere in the room was incredible. Parents, children and the members of the MS appeared to naturally blend and a genuine sense of togetherness appeared to descend amongst all involved. Feedback was very positive from both children and parents. The visit highlighted this wonderful service and facility within our local community and the importance of building links between young and old within the community. Another memorable highlight especially for the children was the production of a sweet cart crafted by the MS and of course, it had many treats for the children to choose. This was such a lovely gesture provided by the MS and it ended the visit. The children and parents all gave a big clap and thanked all those present.
It was agreed that some members of the Men’s Sheds would reciprocate with a visit to our School setting in the springtime. An outdoor gardening activity, engaging young and old was proposed. It was envisaged that the purpose of this would complement both parties in the sharing of skills and active involvement in a fun and engaging activity.
February 2019 Grandparents Day
As part of our on-going IGL project, we held a special Grandparents Day visit to our setting. Grandparents and children engaged in a number of art & craft activities (making and creating cards/pictures using a variety of mixed media). Decorating cup cakes with icing and edible decorations. Playing interactive games all of which the children enjoyed leading the way and play with their grandparents. Refreshments were provided for grandparents and the children. Lovely interactions were observed between the children and their grandparents and indeed amongst the grandparents themselves. This visit was a very special one and as staff, we thoroughly enjoyed being part of the experience and in witnessing the special bonds and interactions between old and young. This IGL initiative is one that we definitely hope to incorporate within our future curriculum plans. It embraces positive connections and learning for the children. It supports all of Aistear’s themes especially in relation to Well-being, Identity & belonging, Communicating and Exploring & thinking.
May 2019 Outdoor Planting of Flowers/Shrubs with the Men’s Shed
As promised, the Men’s Sheds reciprocated a visit to our Early Start pre-school. We commissioned the Men’s Shed to make some large planters for our outdoor play area.
Some of the men modelled a demonstration of the planting process, the children were invited to participate in choosing, and planting their flowers in the planters provided. This initiative demonstrated the importance of engaging with nature and in acknowledging the shared experiences and appreciation for our natural environment between old and young. It was very much a first hands -on experience for the children and they thoroughly enjoyed it.
June 2019 Ti Chi Session with Local Senior Citizens and Children
Our final IGL initiative included a Ti Chi session in our PE hall with some of the lovely women from the local senior citizens Ti Chi group.
Music and movement appropriately tailored for the children’s age and stage of development was explained and demonstrated for the children. The children enjoyed improvising and modelling different moves and actions, accompanied by some supporting music. Following the session both young and old engaged with each other and shared what they enjoyed most about the experience. The children loved the freedom and exploration that this activity afforded them. It was great to witness the enjoyment that the senior women expressed through their interactions with the children. This initiative highlighted the benefits of physical play, exploration and promoting the child’s creative self through the medium of music and movement whilst enhancing positive interactions between old and young.
Conclusion to our TOY Project Journey in Early Start
In conclusion to our TOY (IGL) project, as a staff we positively endorse the many benefits that intergenerational learning initiatives bring to all those involved. Before we embarked on this IGL journey, we never anticipated the powerful impact that it would have on all those involved. From building relationships and well-being to respect for diversity and in supporting interaction with and within the community to mention but a few.
As coordinator of the TOY project within our setting, I would like to thank my colleagues for their enthusiasm and support in planning and implementing all of the initiatives. The children, parents and senior citizens involved made this project the huge success it was and I extend my thanks to them all. A special thank you to The Genesis Programme team for their support in involving us in this wonderful initiative; to TUD for hosting the training sessions and to the course coordinators, Anne Fitzpatrick and Carmel Gallagher, for their professional interest and support. It has been a pleasure to be involved and going forward it is our intention to continue to incorporate IGL as part of our Early Years curriculum within the Early Start programme in St. John’s JNS.