Bridges Together programs are unique in that senior volunteers attend multiple sessions with the children as they share their life experiences and collaborate on fun projects. These sessions can occur in the classroom, in an after-school program or within a community setting.
A trained Bridges Together educator leads the program. The “educator” might be a classroom teacher, community center staff person, retired senior volunteer or a parent volunteer. For every five or six children, there should be two senior volunteers. Together, these eight people work in a group throughout the program. There may be up to four groups in a room.
Bridges Together programs are comprised of at least six sessions. In general, the sessions include:
- 10 minutes – Welcome & Mini-Lesson on the topic of the day
- 10 minutes - Children share information they gathered when they interviewed grandparents or other elders in their circle of love. Seniors share their life experiences.
- 30 minutes – The children and adult volunteers work in small groups on a project related to the day’s topic. As seniors and students collaborate on projects, they realize that we have a lot more in common than we have different!
- 10 minutes – Groups give an overview of their work.
Ideally, there are at least six consecutive, weekly sessions with an introductory meeting in the beginning and a reunion at the end.
Bridges Together programs can take place in a classroom, community center, religious organization or other place.
Bridges Together programs are usually offered as 60-90 minute sessions over the course of six weeks. They may also be implemented as a summer or interim program, occurring each day for 3 hours, for 5 consecutive days.
Children, seniors and educators who participate in Bridges Together programs will:
- Establish and foster positive relationships within the community
- Understand that aging is a life-long process consisting of five areas of human development and recognize the similarities and differences of people of all ages.
- Strengthen relationships among different generations in families
- Develop more accurate views of aging.
The staff at Bridges Together will assist people in finding a partner organization, secure funding. They will provide on-site training, coaching follow-up, and manuals that include all required materials.
Friends of the Senior Center, PTOs and local foundations are often eager to provide financial support for the launch of this program. After the initial costs of purchasing the curriculum, which includes training, the financial obligations are minimal.