The GrandPals Program an intergenerational program that connects an elementary school class with a small team of GrandPals (adults over 55) to engage in weekly, open conversations providing a path for connection and learning through storytelling. Students, Host Teachers and GrandPals benefit through forming bonds, throughout the program, that build understanding, mutual respect and an increased sense of belonging.
Click HERE to visit the GrandPals website to learn more.
HISTORY: The GrandPals Project began in 2010 with a simple question: How might we provide our students with more applied, experiential avenues for character development?
At the time, Montgomery Village Public School in Orangeville Ontario had a strong emphasis on the character education of students. The school had a team working to promote character development in school assemblies through a well developed library of character education related books and professional development for teachers. But something more was needed….
Looking for experiential opportunities to apply this learning, the teacher team worked together to bring students to a local seniors residence for regular, weekly visits. The idea was that reaching out to seniors in the local community would provide real world avenues for the development of empathy, a service mindset, and other attributes identified for character development (e.g. respect, cooperation, positive attitude, kindness).
Between 2010 and 2013, various classes from Montgomery Village PS would make their way to the Avalon Retirement Residence in Orangeville for these weekly spring visits. In these early years students would take part in various activities with the senior residents (e.g. cards, board games, outdoor games, etc.). Back in the classroom, students would create weekly written reflections of their experiences. At the end of the program, seniors enjoyed receiving a copy of these reflections as a parting gift.
During the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years this initiative began to evolve further, deepening on the curriculum front. Teachers at the school worked to create some big ideas around the project (e.g. Age is Only a Number, Every Person is a Story), allowing students to anchor their learning and reflections. They also identified some important key words that would allow students to better reflect upon their intergenerational experiences (e.g. ageism, stereotypes, elders, dignity, empathy). Finally, they identified picture books and other literature that could be used for developing student thinking, while crafting some culminating tasks for students to complete the integrated curriculum requirements. In the spring of 2014 students from Montgomery Village Public School enjoyed the inaugural “GrandPals Gala”, as their end of project celebration. By the end of the 2014-15 school year, the teacher team included educators from the neighbouring Parkinson Centennial Public School and the resulting project celebration was immense, with nearly 100 students participating. Footage of the spring 2015 celebration can be found here.
By the 2015-16 school year, the program began a new evolution. GrandPals turned towards storytelling as a central pedagogical approach. It was during this school year that the guiding question for the project became,