Building bridges through intergenerational learning

Aug 31, 2023

Jade Amalou outlines the intergenerational initiative implemented at Ma Kindy International School that emphasises community partnership.

Building bridges through intergenerational learning

Aug 31, 2023 | ISL Magazine, Teaching & learning, Wellbeing

Ma Kindy’s transformative community partnership

By Jade Amalou

Founded in 2017 on the beautiful Reunion Island, Ma Kindy International School was shortlisted as a finalist for the International School Award in 2023 in recognition of our mixed-generation project, emphasising community partnership and intergenerational learning.

Our primary aim was to focus on the benefits and importance of wellbeing at school. We believe that it extends far beyond academic achievements. For us, prioritising wellbeing creates a nurturing and empowering environment where students can flourish academically, socially and emotionally. It lays the foundation for students to become well-rounded individuals, prepared to face the challenges of the future with confidence and resilience.

We believe that intergenerational learning spaces transcend the boundaries of age, nurturing a sense of belonging, respect and understanding in our students. By embracing community partnerships, we unlock the potential for transformative experiences that shape not only the minds but also the hearts of our future leaders.

One example that showcases the true essence of our unique learning environment materialised when one of our esteemed residents, a retired Parisian theatre director, generously shared his profound love for the performing arts and literature across a series of engaging sessions. This authentic and organic learning experience not only unravelled the intricate layers of acting and theatre but also cast a light on the boundless joys of reading. One of our students declared: “We learn how to read at school but from this experience we know all the benefits of it.”

To that end, the heart of our concept revolves around blending the lives of our staff, children and senior residents as we establish our school within the welcoming grounds of a retirement home.

As leaders in the international school community, we have a unique opportunity to foster an enriching and inclusive educational experience for our students and meaningful opportunities for our staff.

As school leaders, consider the following practices to implement a similar project within your own school.

Embrace community partnerships

Our commitment to intergenerational learning goes beyond mere interactions; it’s about creating a seamless blend of experiences that enrich the lives of all involved. Through programmes and activities easily planned by the school, we witness the transformational impact of these partnerships on our school community.

From art workshops that bring out the creative spirit in both young and old, to shared gardening projects that sow the seeds of environmental consciousness, every initiative carries profound meaning for our students and senior residents alike. This initiative has unlocked the remarkable benefits of intergenerational learning without compromising our curriculum’s time management or learning outcomes.

Encourage mutual mentorship

We plan workshops aligned with our curriculums twice a month, promoting bonding and understanding between the generations. During that time, all members of the community can mentor each other by sharing their knowledge, skills and life experiences.

We have noticed considerable improvement in reading skills within our special needs students, thanks to the caring and attentive contributions of the senior residents. In return, we have observed considerable cognitive improvement in senior residents due to workshops with our students. Simple acts such as sharing memories from the past as they observe children at school or engaging in classic children’s games have resurfaced a wealth of memories. For instance, the act of rolling a dice or employing specific vocabulary associated with these games has sparked remarkable recollections.

The most impactful of these engagements have revolved around fine motor skill activities with our kindergarteners. Through these activities, both our residents and students have embarked on a shared journey of learning – mastering the use of scissors, skillfully wielding a pencil to bring colour to a page or craft a drawing. The patience displayed by both groups, coupled with the natural camaraderie that has blossomed, is truly remarkable.

This also provides a unique leadership opportunity for teachers and staff to facilitate these connections, while students gain new perspectives and understanding through these mentorship experiences.

Staff opportunities

Collaborative work between teachers and staff in intergenerational communication and teaching techniques does not require formal training, but rather an adapted monthly meeting to list ideas for workshops. Motivation and creativity are essential in fostering an inclusive learning environment where every voice is valued. Encourage your staff to explore leadership opportunities through cross-generational collaborations, guiding them to become facilitators of meaningful connections within the community.

Overall wellbeing

The positive impact of our intergenerational learning initiative extends beyond the classroom, leading to considerable improvement in the wellbeing of the entire community. To evaluate the wellbeing of our students at school, every morning we always talk about feelings, and every day children voice the fact that they are happy to come to school. Once a year, we invite parents to complete a student wellbeing survey that covers various topics, including learning environment, student happiness and motivation to come to school. This survey has surpassed expectations, which we believe reinforces their engagement in the learning process.

With the seamless integration of senior residents, our staff members find themselves on a double mission: creating a more meaningful and fulfilling working environment. Importantly, this transformation occurs without additional pressure in organising and planning, as the collaboration becomes a natural and cherished part of our school’s fabric.

Inspiring shared purpose

The ripple effects of our community partnership are evident in the pride that our carers of the community take in being an integral part of the school’s activities and overall mission. They find immense satisfaction in contributing not only to a learning environment but also to a broader, more profound purpose.

Our school is no longer just an educational institution; it has evolved into a dynamic and purpose-driven hub that embraces and empowers everyone, fostering personal growth and connection among all members of our community. This shared purpose creates a strong sense of belonging and inspires our students, staff and senior residents to be active participants in this collective journey of learning and growth.

As we reflect on the transformation that has taken place within our school community, we find immense pride in the positive impact we’ve made on the wellbeing and engagement of our students and the meaningful experiences shared by our staff and senior residents. The synergy of our intergenerational learning partnership has instilled a sense of fulfilment, pride and unity that resonates throughout the entire community, reinforcing our belief in the power of education to shape a brighter and more compassionate future for all.

By focusing on community partnership, we have witnessed remarkable growth and enrichment in the lives of our students and senior residents alike. As school leaders, embracing such initiatives can bring about a positive change in the way education is perceived, fostering a stronger sense of community and belonging within international schools.

The following practices helped us implement the intergenerational learning practices at Ma Kindy:

  • Students and elderly residents work collaboratively
  • Students and elderly residents learn from one another
  • A good working environment
  • Impact of mixed generation on wellbeing

Jade Amalou

Jade Amalou is the Founder and Head of School at Ma Kindy international school. Founded in 2017, Ma Kindy is the first bilingual French/English international school established on Reunion Island. Our progressive educational system targets children from three years old and bases its philosophy on open-mindedness, self-awareness and academic excellence.

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This article was published in International School Leader Magazine

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