Remembering Dottie A.

This summer, Dottie A passed on. Recognizing how much Dottie enjoyed the Bridges program, her family chose to have donations made in her memory to Bridges Together Inc.

Dottie A.

Dottie A.

Dottie was a longtime volunteer in the Bridges program in Sudbury. For several weeks twice a year, she would enter an elementary school classroom along with seven other volunteers.  Dottie would share stories from her life, listen to the children’s experiences and then collaborate on a group project. Slowly, over the weeks, seeds of friendship and compassion were sown.

Andrea Weaver, BT Executive Director, reflected:

Personally, I am so grateful for Dottie’s dedication and faithfulness to the Bridges program.  She was a firm believer in our work.  Her interest and enthusiasm provided some of the fuel that empowered me to grow the program from Sudbury to what is now a vibrant nonprofit, charitable organization. Today, we are training teachers and senior staff members across the country on why we need intergenerational programs, how to create effective programs, and how to implement our award-winning approach for children in grades K-8.”Dottie knew that something magical and important happens when older “seasoned” adults and children come together to share their viewpoints, knowledge, energy and wisdom… hearts and minds are changed; society benefits.

We are grateful to Dottie’s many family members and friends who showed their support for her by donating to our organization.  Dottie’s spirit lives on in our hearts.

Calling all volunteers over the age of 60!

If you would like to volunteer with children in a Bridges program:

  • Burlington, MA is starting Bridges: Growing Together in October in the fourth grade.  Please contact Katie at bercury@bpsk12.org or 781-273-7057.
  • Maynard, MA is starting our Bridges: Our Stories program with children in grades K-3 after school on Thursdays starting Oct. 2.  Please contact Kerry at healyweeks@gmail.com or 617-596-1559. This program is generously sponsored by the Middlesex Savings Charitable Foundation.
  • Sudbury, MA is starting Bridges: Growing Together in October in the fourth grade.  If you are new to the Sudbury program, please contact SudburyBridges@gmail.com (Please note: Returning volunteers will be contacted in the next week).

The commitment is for about one hour per week for approximately six weeks.  Experience Bridges and join the 10,000 people whose lives have been enriched by the Bridges programs!

Fun Learning Activites to Do With the Children in Your Life

STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, is an innovative program that enables both teachers and families to interact with students to stimulate and sustain interest in science, technology, engineering, and math particularly in the Middle School grades where interest in these subjects tends to dramatically decline. Grandparents, parents, teachers or other concerned adults introduce the “Weekly Stem Challenge” to their children who then work on the exercises with the adults in their lives. The activities are designed to stimulate family-student engagement. Research has demonstrated unequivocally that a parents’ interest and involvement in their child’s learning is positively related to not only his/her academic success; but also to his/her career choice. The “STEM ACTIVITY App” created and supported by Wheelock College in Boston also may provide a unique way to increase intergenerational opportunities, as many older adults have a wealth of experience in the scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical fields. Maybe you might become the STEM ACTIVITY expert on your block. Take a look for yourself at stem-app@wheelock.edu.

 

Let the Public Play… in an Art Gallery

“The Cambridge Art Council Gallery turns into a fully interactive play space for all generations. As part of the City’s initiative to build a more playful city, and in large and small scale, Let the Public Play inspires us to make play a more integral part of daily life in Cambridge [and beyond].” *  One of our advisors, Professor Emeritus Ed Klugman, was an advisor on this fantastic project. To learn more or play in the gallery, visit their website http://www.cambridgeusa.org/events/listing/let-the-public-play

The next networking event for people committed to intergenerational programming will be held at Let the Public Play on Wednesday, June 11 from noon – 2 PM.

Fun STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) Activities for Families & Teachers

The STEM Activity provides engaging, family-friendly activities in science, technology, engineering and math. This free web app fosters positive STEM-related interactions between elementary-age students and their families. The activities are designed to increase a child’s excitement about STEM now, and to develop their interest in a STEM career in the future.

The STEM activities start this week, sign up now!

Teachers, use the STEM Activity App to introduce a STEM Challenge of the Week to your students. For this weekly challenge, students take home the activity and engage with their families, and then share their experiences and discoveries back in the classroom. The activities are fun, link to related STEM careers, and encourage students to reflect on how STEM connects with their everyday lives.

Families, sign up for the STEM Activity App to have the activities are your fingertips!
The Wheelock College Aspire Institute developed the STEM Activity App in collaboration with faculty experts, college and high school students, and STEM organizations.

Remember to sign up now to receive all the activities.

Out of the mouths… of grandmothers

Two grandmothers, who volunteer in Bridges: Growing Older, Growing Together, recently shared some of their thoughts on the program.

Liz wrote:

I’ve been volunteering with the Bridges program for five years. It’s a very structured inter-generational curriculum that has been adopted by many schools. Bridges goals and objectives have been coordinated with the new Common Core curriculum.

I have to tell you, as a grandparent and a baby-boomer, I have been blown away by my experience with Bridges! Fourth graders and seniors talk in small groups about schools then and now, about family heritage and traditions, about how we spend our free time, and what age we would most want to be, if we could choose any age we like. And to my great delight, the children not only listen, they ask questions and get involved. They share their own stories, too, and often our conversations in class begin a dialog with their own grandparents. It is truly a win/win experience for all those involved.

 

Anne wrote:

It has been fun doing the actual Bridges program and I think all the participants have benefited from the exposure.  It is definitely a program that draws people together and that is such an important thing in today’s fractured society.  
Thank you for your efforts
Find out how you can get involved in a program or build a Bridges program in your community.  Contact Andrea today at 978-400-6813 or Andrea@BridgesTogether.org.

Intergenerational Family Fun Nights In Mattapan, MA

Mattapan1Since November 2013, the Mattahunt Wheelock Partnership has offered children and families monthly intergenerational opportunities to come together, engage in fun activities, and enjoy a healthy meal at the Mattahunt Community Center. These nights are a way to convene as a community to learn about nutrition, literacy and culture, for families to work across generations to experience learning activities and more.

This initiative is a direct result of the Community Engagement Assessment in which Mattapan residents specified a need for opportunities that allow children and their loved ones to interact together in a safe and fun environment. These events, dubbed Family Fun Nights, are made possible by the generosity of many of the Center’s partners including Sodexo, the Museum of Science, Mass Housing, the Fresh Truck, the National Center for Race Amity, Wheelock Family Theatre, B3, Boston Children’s Museum, PUSH Academy, the Girl Scouts, and the Institute for Pan African Cultural Education Inc.

Upcoming Family Fun Nights:
• April 30: Boost Financial Literacy
• May 28: Participate in Mental Health Awareness
• June 25: Kick-off to Summer

For more information on volunteering/supporting the monthly Family Fun Nights or if you have ideas for programming, please contact Cara Dembkoski, Strategic Partnerships and Programs Coordinator, Wheelock College at 617-879-1147or cdembkoski@wheelock.edu

Weaver Wins Peabody Award

Weaver (2nd from right) with Ms. Jackie Jenkins Scott, President of Wheelock College (2nd from left) and members of the Award Committee.

Weaver (2nd from right) with Ms. Jackie Jenkins-Scott, President of Wheelock College (2nd from left) and members of the Award Committee.

Andrea Fonte Weaver, Founder & Executive Director of Bridges Together Inc., was recognized for her accomplishments recently by Wheelock College when she was presented with the Elizabeth Palmer Peabody Award at Wheelock’s Alumni Symposium on Saturday, March 22, 2014. The award honors the work of a graduate alumna/us whose work exemplifies the mission of Wheelock College, to improve the quality of life for children and families, and who has also demonstrated a commitment to finding unity in all types of diversity.

In her nomination, Kathryn Portnow, Ed. D., Instructor of Human Development at Wheelock College, wrote:

Anyone who has met Andrea Fonte Weaver knows that she has a passion for uniting the generations and helping people to realize how much we have in common – regardless of our age, and background. She has skillfully chosen to use this passion to direct her career for the past 20 years founding Bridges Together, a nonprofit organization dedicated to intergenerational programming. Ms. Weaver’s mission, both personally and professionally, is to joyfully unite the generations.

In 1991, she developed what would become an award winning curricula, Bridges: Growing Older, Growing Together. This program brings groups of older adults together with elementary school students to share experiences, learn from each other and develop appreciation for the similarities and differences they share. Today, more than 7500 students and 2500 seniors have benefited from this program. Each classroom teacher and senior volunteer coordinator has been carefully trained by Ms. Weaver who received her master’s in intergenerational studies from Wheelock in 1994. Now, through Bridges Together, she is creating similar programs for older volunteers and other age groups of students. These programs are in a dozen communities throughout Massachusetts – and as far away as Michigan.

Like Miss Peabody and Miss Wheelock, Ms. Weaver is cognizant of the world around her, and is truly a visionary. For example, by the year 2050, there will be more adults over the age of 65 than children under the age of 15. When today’s children “grow-up”, they will need to work alongside, to advocate for and help care for these elders. In order to do that, these young adults will need an intrinsic reason to reach out. However, at the same time that we have the “greying of our world”, we have fewer opportunities for the generations to come together in meaningful ways that has many ramifications. Perhaps the most serious is that our youth are not developing empathy and respect for elders and do not have an impetus to reach out.

Ms. Weaver is raising awareness of this societal change and proposes solutions; we must all strive to create meaningful intergenerational opportunities within our own circles. She now spends time educating professionals on how to successfully bring the generations together. Her work is revolutionary in that she incorporates three fundamental practices which are uniquely integrative and unifying of diverse pedagogical-educational, psychological-theoretical and organizational perspectives. These are as follows:
1. Developing a leadership team with members of different organizations.
2. Building on lifespan developmental theories which focus on the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual domains in human growth and transformation
3. Incorporating the best practices of the field of intergenerational studies, volunteer management and pedagogy today, including supporting the national core educational standards.

Ms. Weaver, just like Ms. Peabody, is able to promote unity among the generations and offers concrete solutions for creating intergenerational opportunities. These opportunities implemented through Ms. Weaver’s programs embrace and foster a reciprocal appreciation of diversity. Bridges Together, its trainings, curricula, and programs, ultimately help children better understand and cherish elders and their own grandparents as they learn from and with them. In turn, the adult educators and elders are teaching and learning from the children. Lucy Wheelock believed that education is key to the “…uplift of the community and that it grow[s] out of and feed[s] back into the deepest currents and deepest needs of the community” (Byrd & Clayton, September 14, 2011). For over 20 years Andrea Fonte Weaver has exemplified the ideals of Lucy Wheelock and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, educating children, families and teachers to speak to modern day currents and needs facing elders, adults and children. Thus, I heartily nominate Andrea Fonte Weaver for the Elizabeth Palmer Peabody Award.

For more information on the Award, please visit the Wheelock website.