On December 1, 16 seniors from the Turtle Creek and Turtle Woods housing properties in Beverly visited Brookwood to spend the afternoon with 7th graders as part of an ongoing friendship that began two years ago. Hugs and smiles were exchanged and excitement filled the air – after much preparation, the students were embarking on their “Turtle StoryCorps” projects with their Turtle friends. The 7th graders have been learning how to interview others, specifically how to ask open-ended and follow-up questions, in anticipation of talking with the seniors. The afternoon was an opportunity for students to continue exploring intergenerational similarities and differences through storytelling and audio interviews.
At the conclusion of the afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak with the seniors about the experience. They expressed unanimous fondness for the students, appreciation for the interest in their experiences and perspectives, and resounding support for the continued relationship between the Turtles and Brookwood. These strong connections formed back in 2016 when the entire 6th grade embarked on a year-long design project working with over 20 seniors from the Turtle Creek and Turtle Woods properties. This design project grew out of a Steep Week course during which a small group of students created assistive devices for the seniors. We saw the power of using cross-disciplinary design projects to connect students to their community, enabling them to think empathetically. We were excited for these collaborative and intergenerational relationships to continue over the next two years.
In the new year, students will begin conducting and editing final versions of their StoryCorps interviews. If the exciting buzz that permeated both our first trip to the Turtle Creek and Turtle Woods properties and the seniors’ recent visit to Brookwood are any indication, this service learning project promises to deliver a year full of engaging and meaningful experiences for students and seniors alike.