2. Plan


The planning of the GrandPals project is a crucially important phase. In the end, the project can only go as well as the plan that’s been laid out for it. As the late Stephen Covey wrote, ¨All things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint.¨

Choosing a Direction

One of the first things to consider is what the project is going to look like in your particular community. What kind of experience do you want for students and seniors? Will they be pen pals? Will they work together to develop a lifebook for the senior? Or will the whole project take more of a book club format, in which students and seniors meet together to review books and share ideas? How often will seniors and students meet, for how long and on what dates? Will different dates be set aside for different purposes or foci? Once you have laid out where the project is going, the other parts of the planning process can then start to fall into place more easily.
One of the most important things about starting up a project is finding out who’s going to be involved.

Then you need to figure out how often you’re going to visit.

After that, it’s about what kind of results you are looking for.
Lynda Brown – Grade 5 Teacher

Pairing Students and Seniors

After deciding on the general direction of the project, one of the next issues to deal with is the pairing of students and seniors. At this point you will have a list of recruited seniors who are willing and able to be involved. They will have a certain ease of relating, will enjoy young people and have an understanding of both the limitations and abilities of these young people. The next step is to pair each of these wonderful seniors with the students.

When creating the pairings, the ratio of senior to students can vary. For example, you might decide to have one senior meeting with two students; or perhaps three students or four students meeting with a senior at one time. Alternatively, two seniors could make a pair, meeting with a small group of students. It should be noted that pairing a senior with a larger group of students (e.g. 4) can help the shy members of the student group learn to relate more easily. A larger number of students can also be helpful when dealing with students who miss visits. A larger number of students does make the interactions less personal however. So there are positives and negatives to different scenarios. As an additional possibility, students of different ages can be paired together with a senior.Be sure to take into consideration the age, maturity, sociability and academic abilities of your students when making group decisions. It is likewise important to think about how your senior participants want to engage.

I think if you have an opportunity to get to know the seniors in advance, you could pair a senior with a student who has a similar kind of personality or a common interest. But at the same time, if you don’t have that opportunity, a real-world life skill is getting to know people who are different than you, and building relationships with them – that’s really important as well. Tim Buchan – Grade 5/6 Teacher

Possible Project Flow

While Grandpals projects can look different in different locations, based on different goals set out by organizers, some organizers might find it helpful to read the Program Overview as they lay out their plans. As outlined in the document, projects can be seen as a five segment process, as illustrated both in the document and in the graphic below:


Ground Work

In the groundwork phase, the goal is to orient participants to the intergenerational experience they are about to undertake. An exploration of the driving question, big ideas, keywords, and historical thinking concepts will lay the groundwork for the entire project. This in-class work will equip students with the foundation of understanding needed to foster a relationship with their Grandpal. It is a time for students to start thinking outside of their own lives and learn how to empathize with the elders of our community and to connect with local and world history.This phase should be taken into account during planning, and time should be set aside to ensure that this orientation takes place. A helpful resource for this phase is Building Blocks.

Discussion and Friendship

During this phase, students are developing conversation skills and beginning to form friendships with their Grandpals. Students and Grandpals meet for about an hour each week, with tools to help guide their discussion and get to know each other. A helpful resource for this phase is Journals

Discover Stories

During this phase, students are listening intently to their Grandpal’s stories, looking for funny anecdotes, historically-relevant events, meaningful moments, or other gems that will form the basis of a story they will craft during the project. A helpful resource for this phase is Ideas for Intergenerational Storytelling.

Capture Stories

This phase is the main drive of the GrandPals project. During this time, students will work on drafting, revising and editing one story from their Grandpal’s life. They can capture the story both through written work and through visual arts. The emphasis is on producing a high quality product that will be publicly presented at the end of the project. A helpful resource for this phase is Story Writing Workshop and Works of Art.

Share Stories

This is the culminating event of the GrandPals project and an opportunity for the students to share the stories they have captured. This may be in the form of a gala where students, seniors and family are all invited to hear an oral reading of the stories. The artwork can be presented in a gallery format where guests can wander through and see what the students have created. A published collection of stories is a thoughtful gift for participating GrandPals. The celebration is a time for the students to proudly display what they have worked hard on all year. A helpful resource for this phase is Celebration.

Sample Project Timeline

As mentioned, a GrandPals Project may look different in various locations. Below is a sample project timeline, which could be contracted or expanded based on desired project length.