Forest Creek students bring generations together

external image bartholomew.crop.jpgFourth grade students at Forest Creek Elementary are participating in a unique service-learning project which brings them together with senior citizens in the community.

The "Multi-Generational Pen Pal Project," run by teachers Pam Bartholomew and Janie Couture, allows students to develop their writing skills through Pen Pal relationships with senior citizens at the Court of Round Rock Retirement and Assisted Living Community.

In addition to writing letters, the students also visit their pals and interview them about their life experiences and Texas history. Erin Geren, the Activity Director at the Court, says she has seen the impact of the project on the senior citizens. "It is great - it keeps them young,” Geren said. “By sharing their life experiences, they get to reflect on the history that they have lived through. Having the kids come around means so much to them."

In addition to connecting students with seniors in the community, the project offers a powerful learning experience for the students. They practice writing skills in an authentic way while also developing speaking, planning and leadership skills. The students write a biographical essay about each resident and conduct survey questions and graph and analyze the results.

Bartholomew, the fourth grade teacher who first developed the project several years ago, shared her work on a national service-learning Web site last year. "One of our students wanted to ask the seniors if they had computers when they were kids. Many of them just don't know how much has changed, and yet our kids find tic-tac-toe and hopscotch to be fun once they learn about the games that the seniors used to play when they were kids," Bartholomew said.