While Peter Pan needed a little pixie dust for his adventure, Mr. Valetta’s primary students needed the older adults at Gunning Park for their year-long adventure! Near West’s Intergenerational Visits push learning beyond the classroom walls and help develop positive relationships between students and older adults. Last year was especially remarkable for Mr. Valletta’s students.

Building Relationships Across Generations

Mr. Valletta’s class partnered with the older adults at Gunning Park Rose Center for Aging Well in a program with The Musical Theatre Project around the play Peter Pan. Students and older adults sang, studied the script, learned choreography, and practiced their lines together for the show, innovatively supporting primary students’ Ohio Learning Standards, including “considering characters, settings, and major events in a story.” One part of the program had seniors and students take turns singing the goodnight song and sharing their favorite toys from childhood (or at least earlier in their childhood). Students were surprised and delighted to hear that some of their favorite toys are the very same things the seniors had enjoyed so many years ago when they were younger! Each visit built toward the culminating event: performing the whole Peter Pan story together.

Throughout the project, Mr. Valletta noticed that the few students who were sometimes disengaged or having a bad day back at school, always forgot their worries and had nothing but smiles on their faces as they stepped through the door of Gunning Park to see their learning partners awaiting them. They immediately engaged and found joy in the activities.

An Award-Winning Year

Performing Peter Pan, combined with visits throughout the year, made this partnership such a meaningful experience for all! In May 2019, Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging awarded Near West their Partnership and Progress Award in recognition of this valuable community partnership. Near West students and Gunning Park seniors will continue to spark joy and curiosity into the 2019 – 2020 school year and beyond.