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.
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.
The Johnson County Community Foundation funded collaborative projects with students and seniors at four schools and six senior facilities in Johnson County.
Collaboration of the Generations
Johnson County Community Foundation
The Creative Team
The Creative Process
Some students and seniors collaborated through music while others connected through storytelling.
Teaching artist Carol Tharp-Perrin used collages to allow students to connect with elders. The collaborative creation of these collages connected the different generations and provided an avenue to further the understanding of intergenerational bonding.
Teaching 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.
Meaningful Student Learning
From Katie Smith, Principal of Northwood Elementary (Partnered with Hickory Creek at Franklin): "The Collaboration of the Generations program was a great opportunity for our students to be involved in the community. The students learned from each other and their new friends [the seniors] at Hickory Creek. Our students displayed empathy and cared for their new friends. I noticed the residents at Hickory Creek were stimulated by the activity and displayed smiles during the engagement. The artist [Carol Tharp-Perrin] was fantastic and the students truly enjoyed the experience."
From Carol Tharp-Perrin, Arts for Learning teaching artist (led the collaborative project between Northwood Elementary and Hickory Creek): "At the end of the residency students were asking me if they could go visit the seniors on their own independently, [or] perhaps with their parents. Of course, I, along with the teacher [Karle Houghland], encouraged them to visit more with the seniors. The teacher also was planning to do another project between the classroom and the senior facility, hopefully before the end of the school year. That was encouraging feedback to indicate that the program had created a spontaneous desire for the students and teacher to expand and continue their relationship with the seniors."
Cathy Bailey, Manager of the Franklin Active Adult Center: "We ALL enjoyed [teaching artist] Bob [Sander]’s performance immensely! Not only is Bob a skilled storyteller, he is a genuinely nice person who was patient and kind and present in the moment to tune into the stories that the seniors wanted to share with him. Articulate, expressive, learned: all in the same package. I think the most amazing outcome for me as manager here was that everyone watched and listened with rapt attention the entire time! That rarely happens, as conversations are inevitable tableside. I knew [Bob] was a hit not only when [the seniors] roared with laughter, but when it was so quiet we could have heard a pin drop! From my perspective [Bob] was fantastic, both as a storyteller and at engaging his audience, both individually and as a group."
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.
St. Rose of Lima Catholic School and Franklin Meadows
Creekside Elementary and Franklin Meadows
Northwood Elementary and Hickory Creek at Franklin
Greenwood Northeast Elementary and Greenwood Village South
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, and local seniors were provided with social interactions which proved to be powerful and meaningful. As per the program’s five goals, experience was achieved with workshops/performances by five teaching artists/ensembles; understanding occurred as the seniors and students translated their common experiences into art; creation happened when, for instance, the students at Northwood Elementary made collages of their stories to share with the elders; and connection was made as seniors and youth together actively engaged in learning in and through the arts.