Service learning between generations continues at ISP

ISP has been developing an intergenerational program called "Bridges between Cultures and Generations" (BCG). This program encourages exchanges between ISP students and the local community while promoting French and English languages. BCG provides intergenerational programs for the ISP language classes, including educational games (Scrabble, French bingo, baccalauréat), workshops on traditional food, reading activities and concerts for special events such as Christmas, Women's Day and Seniors Day. Other activities have included English/French conversation groups, "Meet the Parisian" – involving a visit a French bakery and interviews with Parisians about the monuments of Paris – and a career workshop, where seniors discussed and shared information about their careers with ISP students, who talked about their lives in French.

This year, we have created new programs for our students that motivate them to promote service learning at ISP. This year students have organized an internet workshop, where they taught seniors how to surf the web, and a creative arts workshops, where seniors taught ISP students how to sew and make crafts by hand, such as a pearl necklace. All of these intergenerational service programs have taken place this year as part of the French Initiation language classes, with monthly exchanges between our students and the senior volunteers and seniors from the seniors club Les Ternes in the 17th arrondissement of Paris.

In one of my previous articles, "ISP students organize an internet workshop for French seniors", published in the ISP newsletter on May 24, 2017, I spoke about this particular intergenerational activity, where our young students from Grade 8 became "teachers" or "mentors" to seniors from Les Ternes. Felix and his friends in Grade 8 organized the IT course to teach seniors to use the internet, as a concrete way of promoting intergenerational service-learning beyond the classroom. These students also proved their creativity and dedication to the school by taking on the role of teachers and demonstrating their ability to share what they had learned in class.

ISP students hold an internet workshop for seniors

"I feel that this project was very successful because it ensured that we would actually help the world since it is a primary aid, meaning that we experience the change made to the people who were with us. This intergenerational project helped me to understand better how to promote the culture of service learning in my school." Felix, Grade 8

Last September, students in the Grade 8/9 French Initiation class also met seniors from the Les Ternes to practice their French and learn how to play the game "Loto" (French bingo). They revised the language skills acquired in previous French classes, numbers. The following lesson, the same students organized a French game of "Loto" with students from a Grade 10 mathematics class. The younger students explained the rules of the game to the older students and some of the teachers joined in too. It was an enjoyable experience and another way of enabling ISP students to carry out service learning.

ISP students visit the Club de Ternes

ISP French teacher, Ms A Venin explains the rules of the game

ISP students visit the Club de Ternes

ISP students from French Initiation in Grade 8/9 learn to play bingo with French seniors supervised by the seniors

ISP students teach eachother to play Loto

ISP students teach eachother to play Loto

Back to school, students teach the game to the older students from the Grade 10 mathematics class

« Les relations intergénérationnelles ont des effets bénéfiques autant pour les seniors que pour les jeunes. Ces activités stimulent l'attention de nos résidents et des jeunes autours des jeux de sociétés comme le loto, le scrabble, le baccalauréat. Les élèves d'ISP se sont vite intégrés et se sont facilement investis auprès des seniors. Les activités intergénérationnelles renforcent la solidarité entre les deux générations » Kathy Arboyan, Club de Ternes

The coming together of students from French Initiation and mathematics classes to play "loto", is one example demonstrating that it is possible and beneficial for students to learn through this type of service learning activity. Students enjoyed these activities beyond the class and defined them as "enjoyable, rewarding and fun."

The results of surveys and interviews that I have carried out for my Leading Edge research project with ISP students, teachers and parents, demonstrated that all these intergenerational learning-service activities have a positive impact on student learning.

"Intergenerational programs contribute to achieving the objectives of lifelong and intergenerational learning in four ways: lay the foundation for a lifelong culture for young and old; develop positive attitudes among generations; integrate benefits for children, youth and older adults, school and community; share learning activities for all age groups, thus, contribute to social inclusion, social cohesion and solidarity." (Hatton-Yeo and Ohsako, 2005)

At ISP, students participate in intergenerational programs with French seniors, 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. French seniors, too, come away with a rich experience and together, they can build relationships based on sharing, respect and love. Through our intergenerational programs, I 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)

Professor Maththew S Kaplan writes that intergenerational programs in schools, such as our Bridges Between Cultures and Generations (BCG) program, "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."

He encourages intergenerational approaches in school "for using the strengths of one generation to meet the needs of another. Civic-minded senior adults contribute to the educational process and make important contributions to children's lives. Conversely, children bring much energy, enthusiasm, and support into the lives of seniors" (2001).

In the school's most recent Strategic Plan, we have set the goal of providing "opportunities for ISP students to contribute, to collaborate and to learn that they can make a difference." The plan sets out that students must "have access to the unique learning that comes from a strong programme of service to others", which is certainly achieved with intergenerational exchanges between students and the local community. They are an excellent opportunity for students to understand the concept of intergenerational service-learning, as well as for the school itself to put into practice its new vision to provide an education that is in line with the "news levels of complexity and contradiction" that we see in the modern world (UNESCO, 2015).

As defined by the International Consortium for Intergenerational Programs, "intergenerational programs [are] social vehicles that create purposeful and ongoing exchange of resources and learning among older and younger generations."

Monica Devos
French Teacher