This academic year, ISP is continuing to develop its intergenerational learning program with the local community in Paris. ISP is the first international school in Paris to incorporate an intergenerational program into language learning, with monthly exchanges with French seniors from residences and associations in the 16th and 17th arrondissements.
For students who are new to the program, the word "intergenerational" can sometimes be confusing. What exactly do we mean by intergenerational learning?
There are several definitions. Kuehne (1999) says that an "intergenerational program involves ongoing, organized, activity between members of younger and older age groups for the benefit of all participants."
According to Newmann (1997), "intergenerational programs have emerged as a new form of humane service that provides for systematic a deliberate interaction between persons at the opposite end of the humane age continuum."
Sanchez (2007) sees and defines three aspects of intergenerational programs : "a) people from different generations participate in all intergenerational programs, b) participation in intergenerational programs involves activities aimed at goals that are beneficial for all those people (and hence to the community in which they live) c) thanks to intergenerational programs, participants maintain relations based on sharing ."
The most important and widely used definition is from Hatton-Yeo and Ohsako, who wrote in 2000: "Intergenerational programs are vehicles for the purposeful and ongoing exchange of resources and learning among older and younger generations for individual and social benefits."
It is undeniable that intergenerational programs have a great impact on students' learning. According to the UNESCO Institute for Education's 2001 report, innovative intergenerational education programs are emerging at an unprecedented rate internationally and have been shown to be an excellent way to a) promote student learning and personal growth, b) enhance feelings of wellbeing in older adults, and c) benefit the community as a whole." (Kaplan, 2001)
In line with this international recognition of the importance of cross-generational learning, we developed our own intergenerational program at the International School of Paris in 2000. That year, I launched "Bridges between Cultures & Generations" (BCG) to encourage exchanges between ISP students and the local community while promoting French language learning. Through the program we aim to ensure that all students "gain cross-cultural awareness and understanding, developing skills, knowledge and qualities that will assist them in leading active and productive lives as the future global citizens as well as the skills to solve the problems arising in a globalized world". (ISP Strategic Plan)
ISP students and Monica Devos, center, play Scrabble with visiting seniors
Encouraging an intergenerational program affirms ISP's commitment to engaging with cultural differences, investigating the changing landscape of identity, and helping students understand what they can learn by collaborating with and serving others. So far in 2017, ISP has incorporated our intergenerational program into monthly class activities for Secondary School students in the French Initiation class. These activities enrich the French language curriculum through interactions with French seniors based on educational French games, such as Scrabble, loto and baccalauréat; workshops on cross-cultural recipes, Christmas concerts for nursing homes, reading poems, conferences on French monuments, celebrations such as La Semaine bleue, Senior's Day and Women's Day.
Professor Matthew S Kaplan of Penn State University writes that programs in schools such as ours "enhance and reinforce the educational curriculum, contribute to student learning and personal growth, enrich the lives of senior adults participants, and have a positive impact on the surrounding communities".
Students at ISP put their French into practice beyond the classroom, while also developing respect, compassion and empathy. These qualities are key to our international, open-minded student body, as well as the IB curriculum itself. Seniors, too, come away with a rich experience and together, they can build a new solid society based on share, respect and love.
Deborah Bird, a parent who regularly attends BCG activities, considers intergenerational programs included in regular class activities at ISP to be "a kind of continuation of family."
ISP is committed to providing students with opportunities "to contribute, collaborate and learn that they can make a difference... Students have access to the unique learning that comes from a strong program of service to others." (ISP Strategic Plan)
Madame Anne-Laure de Grimouard, director of Résidence Mozart La Fontaine and Madame Régine de Benoist, founder of La maison Felippa, visit ISP
Moving forward this year, we are looking to develop this unique educational approach through the program by extending our collaboration to other, new associations in Paris. This year, Primary School students will join our Secondary School program to participate in intergenerational exchanges with a French seniors residence, Mozart La Fontaine, and the French seniors association La maison Felippa.
Primary School teachers Louise Elliott and Marianne Freire work with Régine de Benoist
Our devoted Primary School teachers Marianne Freire et Louise Elliott have already met the founder, Regina de Benoist, who commented: "We are convinced that the exchange of knowledge, the kindness and wisdom of our senior residents will enrich this education program and change the way they look at society... We look forward to beginning our first workshops together and seeing sparks in the eyes of young and old."
Monica Devos has been tirelessly developing and running the intergenerational program at ISP for the last 17 years, and is currently undertaking action research on this topic.