The importance of inter-generational learning

In February 2016 The Children’s Corner Howick began a magical journey to bring old and young together. Here is our story so far…

The elderly are often regarded as a burden and do not receive the respect they deserve. Organisations like Age Concern are working hard to support our older citizens who may face loneliness and in extreme cases abuse. Each year, Age Concern’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention (EANP) services receive more than 2000 referrals for older people who may be facing elder abuse or neglect. That’s eight referrals every working day. About three quarters of these situations are confirmed to involve elder abuse or neglect.

Through education comes understanding and empathy and if we start fostering this in our preschool children they will grow up to respect the older members of our society. That’s one of the reasons we started visiting our local rest home and other seniors groups in our local area.

What we have observed in our visits is the open minded nature of the child who embarks on friendships without bias or judgment. They don’t define the person in front of them as “old” or “incapable”; they are simply learning to connect with another human being in the purest of ways – from the heart.

Our visits have short and long term benefits for our older generation. In the short term these preschool children really do provide an excitement and energy. They brighten up the day of some people who may not interact with many young children or whose own grandchildren live overseas. In the long term we are fostering in children an acceptance and understanding of an older generation who have much to give. They often have the patience and time to sit and work with the child on a puzzle for as long as it takes. They spend time getting to know the children, asking them questions and building their esteem through meaningful exchanges. It is truly magical to watch!add your own text

What did we want to achieve from the visits?

As a preschool we define who we are through 4 Core Values and we wanted to support children’s learning in each of these areas;

Independence… outside of preschool in the community.

Inquisitiveness… making sense of the world around us. We will invite and entice participation from children relating to what happens in the community and the different roles and responsibilities people have.

Inclusion… learning from others with different perspectives and experiences. An opportunity for children to engage with older people and make friendships.

Individuality… foster children’s sense of belonging as we affirm them as active participants in their local community

This week our friends at Communicare, a not for profit organization serving the elderly, lonely or disabled in local communities, invited us to join in their 60th birthday celebrations.  We regularly visit Communicare’s Selwyn Friendship Centre in Howick as part of our inter-generational learning programme to bring our preschoolers together with older members of our local community, to engage in mutually beneficial activities which promote a greater understanding and respect between generations. It also supports our children’s sense of belonging in their local community where they can be active participants.

After presenting the lovely Sarah Gates from Communicare with a hand made card from our preschoolers our children lit up the room with some beautiful singing! We then tucked into some delicious birthday cake and fruit. What a lovely celebration.

Our next visit to Communicare will be coming up in 6-8 weeks and the children will enjoy taking their portfolio’s to their elderly friends and showing them what they get up to at preschool. There will be little discussions between young and old about preschool; what do you like doing? have you got any brothers and sisters? how old are you?  In return our preschoolers will answer and ask questions of their own. Their elderly friend might recount stories from their time as school or share information about themselves. They will then move on to quietly colouring or doing a craft together in companionable silence like old friends. It really is a joyful and magical experience to watch

“…The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind”

Dr Maria Montessori (Education and Peace)