“There was rationing. And it wasn’t fun.”
“I remember standing outside my house in Belgium and seeing the German planes flying overhead. Now that was a sight.”
“I was cleaning the house. And my nine year-old came home from school, and out of nowhere, he told me that President Kennedy had been shot.”
Vivid memories and tales from the past helped history come alive for Fay’s ninth graders this winter, when they partnered with local senior citizens for a day of storytelling and sharing.
The project was part of an ongoing partnership with the Southborough Senior Center, in which Fay offers activities, lectures, and workshops that offer enrichment to local senior citizens as well as a way for the seniors to make meaningful connections with Fay’s students.
The ninth graders’ focus on 20th-century American history this year offered an ideal opportunity to bring the seniors to campus as first-person experts. After a brief introduction from the students explaining their course of study, the students clustered around tables with the seniors to share their reflections on news, the media, and the differences between how people got their information in “the old days” and today.
Then, the seventeen seniors who came to share their expertise were peppered with questions from the students: What was the most important world event that took place during your childhood? What do you remember reading about in newspapers and hearing on the radio? What musicians did you listen to when you were our age?
The seniors’ stories were lively and covered a variety of topics: victory gardens and rationing, an escape from WWII Belgium, the day when President Kennedy was assassinated, and bomb shelter drills, just to name a few. One senior citizen even brought in his slide rule to share as a hands-on example of how much technology has changed since his childhood!
While the students were fascinated by these first-person historical accounts, the learning was by no means one-sided. As the morning progressed, the seniors were eager to ask their own questions of the students and intensely curious about the lives of our ninth graders, many of whom are boarders from across the United States and around the world. You could hear seniors asking the students (who hail from as far away as Hong Kong, Mexico, and Kazakhstan) about what it's like to be a boarder so far from home, what it's like to be a teenager in the United States today, and their opinions about American politics.
We were all energized by this intergenerational learning experience and look forward to meeting again in the spring!