Bridges: Growing Older, Growing Together is an award-winning program that creates opportunities for older adults and elementary school students to share experiences and exchange ideas, perspectives, and values. It is not a tutoring program, but rather a community-wide vehicle for reciprocal respect and understanding.
The program is carefully structured to yield educational benefits as well as broadening social awareness. In school classrooms or community centers, a pair of older volunteers works with small groups of students for six weeks. During their hour-long sessions, they delve into topics such as Ethnicities, Heirlooms and Traditions; Schools Then and Now; and Learning from Each Other. Before each lesson, students are encouraged to interview a grandparent or older adult in their circle of love. During each session, an educator presents a mini-lecture on the topic. Participants then share their experiences and what they learned from their interviews. They explore the topic even further through a collaborative group project. Finally, the educator does a wrap-up of the lesson and each group offers highlights from their work. In addition to the weekly sessions, participants attend an introductory meeting as well as a celebratory reunion.