Collaboration of the Generations (CoG) is a program bridging two participant demographics—older adults and school age children. The objectives of this program are:
to engage older adult residents to utilize their talents and resources to improve the quality of their lives as well as the lives of the students of participating schools;
to engage the students in the arts and literacy;
to provide students with a localized historical perspective;
to further an intergenerational understanding;
and to build community through a final performance designed as a neighborhood celebration.
Arts for Learning held five Collaboration of the Generations programs with students and seniors over the fall and winter months of 2015-16. Four programs were with schools and one program took place at a community center.
Collaboration of the Generations
A model program might include one or two workshops for the elders alone, one or two workshops for the students alone, three or four workshops with the students and elders together and a culminating event where students share the elders’ stories.
About The Creative Team
Teaching artist Melli Hoppe lead CoG programs focused on creative movement at IPS #27 and IPS #56, and teaching artist Bob Sander lead CoG programs focused on storytelling at IPS #2, IPS #56 and the Forest Manor After-School Program.
The Creative Process
Some students and seniors collaborated through creative movement while others connected through storytelling.
Through creative movement, artist Melli Hoppe used a series of gestures, dance phrases and shape sharing/mirroring to allow students to retell the elders' stories. The culminating event then included students and seniors actively interacting in a shared space. This experience connected the different generations and provided an avenue to further the understanding of intergenerational bonding.
Artist Bob Sander helped students and seniors collaborate through storytelling. He worked first with elders’ to gather their stories, and then worked with the students. Using the elements of story and the importance of listening, students learned to share the elders’ stories during the culmination event.
About Our Partnerships
IPS #27 and Indiana Avenue Apartments
IPS #27 is one of three Center for Inquiry Schools in the state of Indiana. IPS #27 has over 415 students and 55 teachers and staff. Two third grade classes, with 25 students each, participated in the CoG program.
Indiana Avenue Apartments is a housing facility of The Indianapolis Housing Agency (IHA), a federally-funded government housing agency that provides low-income families, seniors and families who have disabilities with access to affordable housing. The Indiana Avenue Apartments are located on Indy’s near west side and house a total of 105 seniors. A total of 12 seniors participated in the program.
IPS #2 and John J. Barton Annex
IPS #2 is also one of three Center for Inquiry Schools in the state of Indiana. IPS #2 has 368 students and 44 teachers and staff. Two eighth grade classes, totaling 37 students, participated in the CoG program.
The John J Barton Annex is a housing facility of the IHA and is located in the heart of the Mass Avenue Cultural District. It houses a total of 60 seniors, 20 of whom participated in the program.
IPS #56 and Senior Alumni at IPS #56
IPS #56 is one of three Montessori Schools in IPS. IPS #56 has over 302 students and 60 teachers and staff. Two sixth grade classes participated in the CoG program. Each 6th grade class had 24 students.
Senior Alumni at IPS #56 was established as a formal group in 2010. It has a total of 15 seniors, of whom 10 participated in the program. Senior Alumni has an assigned president who organizes their participation in areas such as the school’s clothing closet, food pantry, eighth grade promotion ceremony and other school functions.
Forest Manor After-School Program and Kennedy King Center
The Forest Manor After-School program is a program with students from various schools in the area. The total number of students in the program is 25, of whom 15 participated in CoG.
The Kennedy King Center is located in Kennedy King Park on the near eastside. The center has 80 elders, 15 of whom participated in the CoG program.
Meaningful Student Learning
From Donavan Gilder, student: “She was a good artist. She was fun and she took her time with us without yelling or hollering. I would like to do it again.”
From Kyra Trudo, student: “I liked how each of us worked together and learned something new. I liked how we learned from the Alumni. We learned different but cool dance techniques we didn’t know about. I liked the mirroring the best!”
From Angie Artist, senior citizen: “It brought back so many memories. I enjoyed it.”
From Robert Hatcher, senior citizen: “I like how it related the dance to the stories. The interaction is really important, it gets them involved. I was glad to give the history of the school because they never know what the school meant to us. It made me think about things. I had not thought about those memories for a long time.
From Melli Hoppe, artist: "Dance is more abstract than storytelling, so the stories were not really retold through dance but provided a structure for the students to create movement. The most meaningful use of dance was when the students and seniors danced together and communicated with each other through spontaneous movement. During the shared dances they showed sensitivity, respect, and pure enjoyment of each other’s company.
The students enjoyed hearing about the seniors’ pasts. They responded to what was very different from their experience (picking cotton, cutting tobacco) and what was still the same (double dutch, hop scotch, feeling embarrassed). They were very respectful to the seniors during the shared session and seemed eager to dance with them."
In today’s society, there seems to be contrasting communication styles between generations. Today’s younger generation seems to especially value openness and creativity. Collaboration of the Generations provided an interactive and creative way to bridge the gap between elders, or Generation X, and students, or Generation Z. Learning to embrace, respect, and communicate with older adults and utilize their talents and resources encouraged students to use a new perspective while being engaged with the arts. With today’s society growing more and more diverse, being willing to bond with other generations who differ greatly from our own is becoming more important.
CoG positively impacted both students and elders by fostering new relationships that take advantage of generational differences. Through creative arts experiences, intergenerational understanding and bonds were created.
Case Written By:
Cassandra Thomas (left)
Program Director, Arts for Learning
Leesa Jing (right)
Summer Program Assistant, 2016