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CONNECTING >>> Connecting Generations via Technology T


hrough the power of technolo- gy, the Coffeyville, Kan., school district has created an “Age-to-


Age” facility that is connecting generations.


Located less than a mile from the main campus of Community Elementary School in Coffeyville, Windsor Place nursing home is host to one of the district’s all-day kindergarten classes. The classroom is linked to the school’s network and even receives the main campus’ announcements via an in-class PA system. “Everything in the classroom


works just like it’s in the main school building,” Coffeyville Assistant Superintendent James Elliott says. The kindergarten class has a teacher from the elementary school and the kids are bused back to school for gym and music classes. The difference is the nursing home residents, known as “elders,” take part in the students’ education. They read to them, do projects with them and teach them valuable life lessons. Elliott says prior to the program a lot of the nursing home residents didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Since the partnership began, that has changed. “They had people fighting for positions in the hallway with their wheelchairs so they could see the kids come in and greet them,” Elliott says. According to Elliott, the renewed sense of purpose is helping elders to live longer, happier lives. It’s also enriching the students’ education as they experience valuable attention and care. A similar program takes place at Grace Living Center in


16


Evan Neurohr and Grandma Pat Willis read together at Grace Living Cetner in Jenks, Okla.


Jenks, Okla., where 22 pre-k and kindergarten students attend school each day. The two classrooms are accessible through large glass doors that allow residents to watch the kids as they study and play. The sounds of children learning and laughing travel into the nursing home’s hallways for the “grandmas” and “grandpas” to enjoy. Established 16 years ago, the Jenks


program was the first of its kind and the inspiration for the program in Coffeyville, as well as others around the world. Grace Living Center CEO Don Greiner worked with the school district to incorporate the classrooms into the nursing home, which he leases to Jenks Schools for $1 a year. The


nursing home also employs a liaison to work with the classroom teachers to plan activities for the students and residents to participate in together. Kindergarten teacher Amanda Moore says technology keeps the students and teachers at Grace Living Center connected to the other Jenks campuses. Teachers collaborate digitally and students communicate with classrooms on the main campus via Skype. The kids also engage in activities like a “Book Buddies”


intergenerational reading program and weekly ice cream socials with the residents. These unique experiences help students develop social skills as they learn how to carry on conversations with the grandmas and grandpas. “This is one of the very best things we do,” Jenks West Elementary Principal Suzanne Lair says. “It’s one of the best things I’ve been part of in all my years of education.”


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