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|Project Title: ||Elder Email Pen Pals|
|School Year: ||2007|
|School - District:||Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School - Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public (District)|
|Contact Name:||Deirdre Arthen|
|Contact Phone:||(413) 268-3421|
|Content-Area(s):||English Language Arts, Science & Technology|
|Community Need:||Human Needs|
|Brief Description of SL Project: |
The Prisms class (7-8 grades) visited a group of higher-functioning residents at Hampshire Care Long Term Care Facility as a part of our whole-school CSL partnership with that institution. Hampshire Care is a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility that provides both short-term and long-term nursing services. The long-term nursing services are for patients with disabilities that prevent them from returning home after hospitalization or from remaining in their home due to their illness.
Each student made four visits to spend time with and get to know a particular resident. The purposes of these visits were for the students to develop a deeper understanding of some of the elements of aging, both physical and cultural, and for the students to build relationships with residents that could be the basis for an ongoing email correspondence. In preparation for the email correspondence portion of the project, the Prisms spent time in their language arts class reviewing the proper form for friendly letters. They also spent time in their tech class learning how to send and receive emails. The project focused on learning skills in these specific academic topics, and learning about the power of an individual to have an impact on the life on another person.
|The Community Need the Project is Meeting:|
The Prisms students addressed the social needs of isolated elders. Since this project was a part of a school-wide connection with the nursing home partner, the prioritization of specific needs came out of class discussion and was also based on information provided by staff and students’ past several years of experiences in the program.
|Service Component: |
The students started with four one-hour visits with Residents at Hampshire Care to build-up a friendship through playing games, sharing, and talking together. Then throughout the school year, students sent emails to the residents who replied in response (approximately 10 additional hours per student). The students wrote about the school year, events at the school, and included photos.
This project helped to keep the elderly residents connected with life at the school, and provided many of them with their only source of outside contact. The major benefit was the creation of ongoing meaningful relationships between the 34 students and 20 Elders.
|Connections with Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks: |
The academic focus was on improving technology skills and writing skills with a focus on writing friendly letters.
In Tech Class the students learned how to send and receive emails.
In Language Arts class, the students reviewed the requirements of a friendly letter.
Frameworks addressed: Language Arts 19.22, 19.23, 20.4, 21.6, 21.7
The email correspondence was reviewed by the classroom teacher for grammatical structure and was used along with other writing projects as part of the students’ language arts assessment.
|How Youth Voice Helps Shape Project:|
Every classroom in the school participates in partnering with Elders at Hampshire Care through planning and implementing a community service-learning project that is implemented during the school year. Since the school repeated this process every year for the past four years, by the time the students reach 7th and 8th grade, they have “grown up” and gained experience working with elders over the years.
At the initial planning session the students were involved in strategizing the best ways to make the project a success. In the reflection sessions they were able to suggest changes that might
improve the following visit with the residents. Each student also had a particular “buddy / pen-pal” with whom they were able to develop a fairly independent relationship through their visits and ongoing email relationship. Many of those relationships were empowering to the students because they could see the ability they had to have a positive impact on another person’s life.
|Student Reflection Component: |
Prisms students reflected regularly on their visits both as a group in the class and also in their classroom journals. These quotations are from two of those student journals:
“When I first entered through the doors of HLTC I was quite apprehensive. I am not exactly a people person, and making friendships and conversations with strangers is difficult. However, when I go there, I was quite surprised to find that my [Elder] partner was witty and active, if absent minded. She was really pretty excited about everything, as was I. She even taught me a game she played as a child.
Why are Elders shunned in our society? In the media there seems to be this assumption that people over 70 don’t exist. It must be very insulting. After all, people of an old age are as smart and kind as any of us, and it shows when my partner tell her two [student] buddies to play a game and let her watch and learn. However, it also seems to me it would be equally insulting to be [living] in such a home.”
“When I go to Hampshire Long Term Care, to do activities with the elders, it makes me feel really good that I did something to make their lives more exciting. I know that they really enjoy our company and that makes me feel really good. The elders don’t get to do much or go anywhere each day, so I think they really appreciate us coming to visit. It’s also interesting to do activities with people you don’t always get the time to sit down and learn about. I get to learn about Elders and see what their lives are like. I also see how they can’t do things as actively as we can, and some have certain disabilities. I think going to spend time with elders is really a good experience, and I think other schools should do it too.”
|Community Partners Involved: |
Our partner of five years is the Hampshire Care Long Term Care Facility. The school’s CSL staff works closely with the staff at the facility in the advance planning and in the execution of every project. The Hampshire Care Project Coordinator visited the class in advance of the students’ first visit to the residents to participate in the sensitivity-training and the planning of the specifics for the project. She also assisted the elders in receiving and sending email with the students.
|Demonstration/Celebration of Students' Work: |
Each year the school holds its end-of-the-year celebration under a big tent at Hampshire Care. It is attended by all of the Hilltown students, teachers, and many parents as well as all of the involved residents, facility staff, and some of the residents’ families. Students from each class reflect on their year at school and in the program, sing songs, and recite poetry. The 8th grade students pass on the mantle of “oldest” to the 7th graders and gifts are exchanged between the residents and the students.
|Evaluation of Project's Impact:|
At the end of the series of visits the students meet and review the initial intent of the project and evaluate its success. The class used our existing template of discussion questions to talk about the needs they intended to meet, the studies they wanted to include, how they thought it would work, whether they had to change and adapt methods as they went along, and whether it ultimately met everyone’s expectations. Suggestions were also made for what might work better next year if another class chose to do something similar.
|Challenges/Solutions Identified by District:|
At this point the obstacles are mostly minor. We have a well-established program and a wonderful relationship with our partner institution.
* NOTE: This project summary was written by the district/community. Any text in italics was added or modified by the Department (ESE). Most of these projects were supported with Learn & Serve America funds distributed through the ESE.