Grade 7 students from Great Lakes Public School at Sandalwood Park
By Kristian Partington
The Johnston Neighbourhood at The Village of Sandalwood Park is bustling with activity on this Tuesday morning in early June. The voices of young people and old alike mingle as Grade 7 pupils from Mrs. Ritu Singh’s class at Great Lakes Public School sit alongside the residents they’ve paired up with for a new, four-session learning opportunity.
Some elders are playing boardgames or cards with their younger counterparts, while others are collaborating on the iPads the students have brought in to help make a record of all they’ve learned. Resident Jack Thomson is watching a soccer game upon an iPad with his three young friends. The first time he met Manveer, Ronak and Ammar, he told them of his love for soccer, and they discovered that passion for the game is something they all had in common. During this visit, the boys were sure to bring a few clips they could all watch together.
Mrs. Singh says this type of interaction is just what she’d hoped would emerge as the children mixed with their elders.
“We’re a technology-based classroom and we’ve been presenting digital portfolios,” she says. “They use Prezi or iMovies – any type of technology to build this portfolio about themselves.”
She explains that this portfolio design has been going on since September and now, the children are using the skills they’ve learned to build a similar portfolio for the Sandalwood Park residents they’ve befriended.
The children, she says, “build community, learn compassion and get another view of outside, the real world,” while the residents are learning more about the rapidly changing world of technology through the eyes of young people that have grown up with it.
“It’s just been lovely,” says Margaret, who just celebrated her 97th birthday. She looks over at her two young friends, Mikayla and Yasmeen, and smiles. “They really are lovely girls.”
Yasmeen says she’s happy to have the opportunity to do something a little different and learn about someone who’s lived a long life. “It’s really interesting because she has a lot of stories to tell,” she says, noting that Margaret was a teacher for more than 60 years.
Times have changed a lot, Margaret says with a smile. She chose to retire around the time that computers were introduced into the schools because, as the librarian, she would’ve been expected to teach the students. Now the children have hand-held computers that communicate instantly around the world, and they’re teaching her.
Mrs. Singh says it’s common for young people in this day and age to be closed into their homes, so to speak, and an opportunity such as this helps them see beyond their school and their home. “I’m really excited to see how they’re coming outside of their shell . . . and to see the compassion come out,” she says. “Some of the kids that were a little more closed are opening up a bit more.”
The smiles upon residents’ faces, it seems, are a clear indication that they’re happy to welcome the students into their home.