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4th Graders Partner with the Heights and Hills Senior Community

by Joy Roberts

What do 55 fourth graders and 9 senior citizens have in common?

That is the question that BFS fourth graders put to the members of Heights and Hills as part of their creative and innovative Service Learning project this year, “When We Were Ten”.

Established in 1971, Heights and Hills serves close to 3,000 adults over the age of 60 and their families living in Brooklyn. Many of their clients suffer from multiple chronic conditions. For those who have friends or family involved in their care, they provide information, direction and support to enable the family to care for his/her loved one. However, many of their clients live alone, homebound and isolated without friends or family to help them.

Students have been involved with the older adults of the Heights and Hills community since 2012, making and sending birthday cards and developing “pen pal” relationships. This year, working with Director of Volunteer Programs Betsy Guttmacher, the students have embarked on an ambitious project to explore the similarities of being ten years old then and now.

The goal of “When We Were Ten” is to encourage communication between students and older adults, promoting cross-generational conversation and learning.  Working in small groups the students have written letters to the adults they have been matched up with, introducing themselves and talking about the project and what they are hoping to learn.

As a next step, a series of surveys were sent out in order to help them learn more about the lives of the participants. The surveys included questions about family, entertainment, travel and technology. Some of the many questions asked were:

“Where were you born? Tell us a little about it.”

“What holidays did you celebrate?”

“Were there any special traditions that you had? Tell us about a favorite one.”

“In your free time, what did you do for fun?”

“Was music a part of your life? Did you like a particular type of music best and why?”

“Share a memory you have of something you did with friends at this age that you really enjoyed.”

As each of the surveys were received, students brainstormed ideas for items they could create that best reflected the various aspects of their adult’s life at this age. These items were then included in a “Time Capsule Box” (created by the students in their Wood class) that were then presented to participants in a meet and greet at BFS at the end of May. See photos here!