Schools can be places of possibility. In fact, schools can become places of possibility for all ages in communities.
7-Gen Learning nurtures lifelong, deep learning as young and old learn from and with each other on a regular basis. 7-Gen Learning promotes student academic achievement in areas like reading and math, while supporting student mental health through real relationships with mature adults. We're planting some seeds for growing a new kind of learning in Whitchurch-Stouffville schools.
The long-term goal is to spark big-picture education innovation – reframing what "school" is to grow student thinking and life skills while supporting academic achievement in a broad modern learning context.
We want to give students an intergenerational support system; help reduce alienation, dropout rates, and bullying; re-energize teachers; and mobilize the active participation of parents, grandparents, and community neighbours.
We also want to offer a meaningful community learning environment for older adults – where they can grow and learn new things. We live in a culture that all too often underutilizes the social capital of older adults – experience, skills, wisdom. Elders can feel more connected and empowered through the relationships they develop with students, and help younger generations. The role of elder is given new purpose as older adults fulfill a vital role in building a stronger community. While collaboration between students is important, when students collaborate with older adults, the dialogue and learning goes much deeper.
Many children get too much peer socialization; research shows they need 4-6 involved, caring adults to fully develop emotionally and socially. Yet we put children in age-segregated schools (even grades are based on age not ability), and build gated retirement communities. By intentionally creating an "elders-in-residence" role in schools, we start to transform the system, lives and communities.
The evidence for the potential of 7-Gen Learning can be found in Experience Corps and The Intergenerational School. Experience Corps is a reading literacy program in the US that matches elders with struggling students. Research has shown significant academic gains for students. Elders benefit from improved physical and mental health, and better social lives. The Intergenerational School (TIS) in Cleveland, OH was founded by Dr. Peter Whitehouse. Dr. Whitehouse is a neurologist and professor at Case Western Reserve University, and Strategic Advisor at Baycrest in Toronto. TIS is one of the top performing public schools in Ohio and received the 2014 Eisner Prize. Elders (even those with dementia) are woven into the fabric of the school day such that young and old learn from and with each other. The school is connected by a walkway to a seniors housing complex. Young and old cross paths easily and naturally, and as a result engage deeply. Research conducted on the school has shown that students have higher levels of academic achievement, as well as better social skills (e.g. empathy, listening, patience, etc.). Elders experience better health, less depression and social isolation, feel more connected to community, and feel a sense of value and purpose.
At the heart of 7-Gen Learning is what we term TMC – Time (experiencing and understanding time in new ways in the context of lifetimes across generations); Meaning (real-world lifelong learning that means something to and inspires both younger and older students); and Connection (connecting children to adults who care, to the community, to their future, and to the bigger world around them). Real and sustained student achievement flourishes when we substantively engage students with real people in their community, and with the big ideas and the big picture of the world around them. That's 7-Gen Learning.
For more information about 7-Gen Learning in Whitchurch-Stouffville, call (905) 852-3777 or e-mail us. Keep up-to-date on everything happening with WS YOU 177 – follow us on Twitter and sign up
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