The award-winning, evidence-based Bridges Program Suite unites older adults and children in their own communities for shared experiences and cooperative learning. Through the Bridges program, generations grow in mutual respect, understanding, and friendship. Classroom learning is enhanced through these relationships.

DSCN3809Adults volunteer in the children’s classroom, library, or community center over several weeks. Under the guidance of the teacher or trained staff member, the volunteers work in pairs to facilitate small groups of students. Together, the seniors and students share their own life experiences and those of their families. These discussions are supplemented with creative, educational projects that promote shared perspectives.

The Bridges Program Suite curricula are innovative and have a proven track recordThis unique intergenerational program model was first developed by Andrea Fonte Weaver in 1991 and has been successfully implemented in public schools, private schools, libraries, community centers, and senior centers, touching more than 10,000 lives. The Bridges programs empower professionals to engage older adults and children to enhance families, strengthen communities, promote positive attitudes about aging, and expand learning opportunities that support the national core educational standards.

  • Youth Development: With a focused discussion on what seniors have done and can do, students are provided valuable growth opportunities. Bridges promotes a positive attitude in children about aging and fosters an inclination to spend time with older adults, as well as dispels fears of aging and ageist stereotypes. In sessions and reunions, students often comment on the knowledge and active, well-rounded lifestyles of seniors.
  • Older Adults: IG programs provide a dedicated opportunity for seniors  to spend time with children, learning about them and their lives today. Because of many societal changes, there are fewer occasions for these generations to come together for meaningful experiences.  With the BT Program Suite, older adults will reconnect with old friends, make new friends, reflect on their lives and share their experiences and enjoy the vibrancy of children.
  • Community Building: Bridges brings together multiple generations within the community: students, teachers and staff, and senior volunteers. The contribution of each generation is valued and vital.  Participants of all ages meet new friends (both “old” and “young”) and discover that they have many more similarities than differences.

The Bridges Curricula

Three unique and innovative Bridges programs are available. Each is focused on a different student population, and were developed to be age and grade appropriate.  These curricula overlap as different school systems are organized in different ways.

Theories Behind Our Programs

Bridges Together programs are built upon sound theories and best practices.

Theories

1.  We are always growing and changing in at least four areas as defined in human development theory.
The four areas include:  physical, intellectual, social and emotional.  Most of us all develop spiritually, meaning we believe in a Higher Power, regardless of whether or not we practice in an organized religion.  Spiritual development is included in this program because many intergenerational experiences occur in families during religious holidays.  Many of the lessons focus on some aspect of human development.

2.  We are all smart – as defined by Dr. Howard  Gardner in his multiple intelligence theory.
Gardner developed the multiple intelligence theory which states that there are eight types of intelligences or “smarts”:  body, logic, music, nature, people, picture, self  and words.  Each of us is stronger in some and weaker in others.  The motto for this theory is:  It’s not how smart we are but HOW we are smart! The Bridges Together activities are based on a variety of the intelligences so that each participant has an opportunity to shine.  Many of the adult volunteers find this theory fascinating. The theory provides a framework for examining our lives and supporting the children in our lives.

3.  Throughout our lives, we have experiences that cause our egos to either prosper or stagnate as defined by Dr. Erikson in his Social-Emotional Development Theory.
During each phase of life, our egos either thrive or stagnate based on the interactions of the body, mind and culture.

  • School age children between the ages of 6 and 12, either become industrious or develop an inferiority complex.
  • During adolescence, they either successfully develop their identities or have role confusion.
  • In middle adulthood, between the ages of 35 and 65, people either create and share with others or become self-absorbed and stagnate.
  • During late adulthood, after the age of 65, adults who are able to reflect on their lives and make sense of them develop integrity and wisdom.  Those who are not able to do this develop despair.

Bridges Together programs help facilitate the development of people’s “egos”.

4.  There are national, state and local core curriculum standards.
Bridges Together programs support these standards, especially English Language Arts.  Each manual and lesson plan clearly states what standards are being supported.

Best Practices

Bridges Together programs incorporate the best practices from:

  • Designing, implementing and evaluating effective intergenerational programs
  • Educational and school-based programs
  • Volunteer management

Bridges Together programs are soundly built on theory and best practices to maximize benefits for all participants.  Find out more today!

PreK-Grade 3

Bridges: Our Stories

2014 Bridges and Andrea Weaver-133In Bridges: Our Stories, picture books provide the theme.  Components of each session typically include:

  • a movement activity;
  • interactive book discussion;
  • sharing family stories; and
  • a related art project.

Participants will:

  • experience how a book can ‘come to life’;
  • learn about their family histories; and
  • enjoy ‘classic’ activities such as making newspaper hats and playing musical chairs.

Specific books, along with their themes, include:

  • The Story of Ferdinand (by Munro Leaf, Drawings by Robert Lawson) with the theme of each person is special;
  • Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel (by Virginia Lee Burton) with the theme that each of us works hard to accomplish a goal;
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (by Judith Viorst) with the theme that sometimes we experience difficult days but we also have wonderful days;
  • A Chair for My Mother (by Vera B. Williams) with the theme of saving money and also there are always ‘helpers’ should a crisis occur;
  • Miss Rumphius (by Barbara Cooney) with the theme that each of us can make the world a more beautiful place;
  • A Wonderful World (by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, Illustrated by Ashley Bryan) with the theme of identifying the wonderful things in our world;
  • The Family Tree (by David McPhail) with the theme of exploring our family trees and favorite trees.

For more information, email Andrea@BridgesTogether.org or call 978-400-6813.

Grades 3-6

Bridges: Growing Together

DSCN3831In Bridges: Growing Together, participants explore different aspects of their own life stories along with those of their families and the greater community through:

  • interactive discussions
  • a variety of projects utilizing the different multiple intelligences, including: creating graphic organizers, drawing, and activities with movement

Favorite activities include sharing about an heirloom, a student-led tour of the school and/or community center, and teaching about a favorite topic.

Participants will:

  • learn about their family histories
  • have the opportunity to lead and teach
  • discuss changes in our world over time, such as the way we celebrate holidays
  • recognize the way people are the same and different regardless of our ages

Session titles include:

  • Learning About Older Adults
  • Getting to Know You
  • Schools Then & Now
  • Ethnicities, Heirlooms and Traditions
  • Learning from Each Other
  • Introduction to The Multiple Intelligence “Smarts” Theory
  • How Old is Old?
  • Celebrations

For more information, email Andrea@BridgesTogether.org or call 978-400-6813.

Grades 6-8

Bridges: So Smart

Copy of 2013 Bridges Fashion Event-69In Bridges: So Smart, tweens and teens and older adult volunteers will explore Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences “How We Are Smart” Theory using different aspects of nature as the theme for each session.

The multiple intelligence theory states that people have eight different types of intelligences, or “smarts”: body, logic, music, nature, people, picture, self, and word.  This theory and how we use our smarts will come alive through:

  • hands-on art, music, and science projects
  • interactive discussions
  • a variety of nature activities

Participants will:

  • recognize how they are smart and how their ‘intelligences’ can shape their hobbies, careers, and volunteerism
  • learn about their family histories and cultivate the character trait of resilience
  • Increase their knowledge of nature and nutrition

Sessions include:

  • learning about our smarts (assessment – logic and picture smarts)
  • family and favorite trees (visual art project – picture smarts)
  • seasons (taking a walk outside and writing poetry – body, nature, and word smarts)
  • resilience (creating a movement to music – body, music, and nature smarts)
  • using our hands (hand sculptures – body and picture smarts)
  • field trip to a farm (nature smarts)
  • rainbow plates (planning healthful meals – logic smarts)
  • our garden (planting a tree or garden – body, logic, and nature smarts)
  • using our smarts (in our free time, careers and communities – logic, people, and self smarts)
  • celebrating our smarts (party – people smarts)

With all of the lessons, participants interview loved ones at home and will share historic and personal highlights in the sessions (people smarts).

For more information, email Andrea@BridgesTogether.org or call 978-400-6813.