The GrandPals Project began in 2010 with a simple question: How might we provide our students with more applied, experiential avenues for character development?
At the time, Montgomery Village Public School in Orangeville Ontario had a strong emphasis on the character education of students. The school had a team working to promote character development in school assemblies through a well developed library of character education related books and professional development for teachers. But something more was needed….
Looking for experiential opportunities to apply this learning, the teacher team worked together to bring students to a local seniors residence for regular, weekly visits. The idea was that reaching out to seniors in the local community would provide real world avenues for the development of empathy, a service mindset, and other attributes identified for character development (e.g. respect, cooperation, positive attitude, kindness).
Between 2010 and 2013, various classes from Montgomery Village PS would make their way to the Avalon Retirement Residence in Orangeville for these weekly spring visits. In these early years students would take part in various activities with the senior residents (e.g. cards, board games, outdoor games, etc.). Back in the classroom, students would create weekly written reflections of their experiences. At the end of the program, seniors enjoyed receiving a copy of these reflections as a parting gift.
During the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years this initiative began to evolve further, deepening on the curriculum front. Teachers at the school worked to create some big ideas around the project (e.g. Age is Only a Number, Every Person is a Story), allowing students to anchor their learning and reflections. They also identified some important key words that would allow students to better reflect upon their intergenerational experiences (e.g. ageism, stereotypes, elders, dignity, empathy). Finally, they identified picture books and other literature that could be used for developing student thinking, while crafting some culminating tasks for students to complete the integrated curriculum requirements. In the spring of 2014 students from Montgomery Village Public School enjoyed the inaugural “GrandPals Gala”, as their end of project celebration. By the end of the 2014-15 school year, the teacher team included educators from the neighbouring Parkinson Centennial Public School and the resulting project celebration was immense, with nearly 100 students participating. Footage of the spring 2015 celebration can be found here.
By the 2015-16 school year, the program began a new evolution. GrandPals turned towards storytelling as a central pedagogical approach. It was during this school year that the guiding question for the project became,
How might we discover, capture and share
an extraordinary story from someone’s life?
Once Upon a Wednesday (2015-16)
Now and Then (2016-17)
Paths Travelled (2017-18)
Every Person Has a Story (2018-19)
Each year a copy of the resulting student project work, captured in book form, has been donated to the Museum of Dufferin to be kept in their archive. Students feel a sense of pride and contribution, knowing that their work is building to the body of knowledge around our local Dufferin County history.
2014 - Starting Out
2014 was the first year of a “GrandPals Gala” for Montgomery Village PS Students. In previous years the project had not enjoyed this kind of wrap up celebration and closure. This video summary captures some of the highlights from the inaugural event.
2015 - Sharing & Promoting
Springboarding from the resources shared, our friends at the Orangeville Christian School launched a successful GrandPals Project at the Avalon Retirement Residence.
Highlights from the project are captured in this summary video.
2016 - Gaining Support
This Toronto City News feature was the result of a partnership between the Town of Orangeville and the GrandPals Project at Montgomery Village PS.
Funds for the project were provided by a grant from the Ontario Seniors Secretariat...more
2017 - National Acclaim
Montgomery Village PS teachers Lynda Brown and Marc Mailhot received the Governor General Award for Excellence in Teaching for their work on the GrandPals Project.
“The winners certainly have a significant influence on their students, enabling them to understand their history through unique and innovative projects,” Janet Walker, president and CEO of Canada’s History, said in a news release...more
2018 - Resources to Share
The Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement,“develops and supports collaborative strategies that engage citizens and institutions to solve major community issues across Canada and beyond.”
The Tamarack Institute hosted a webinar focused on the GrandPals Project, promoting the social impact that is possible through community connected learning...more
2019 - Measuring Impact
Through a partnership with the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute (CESI) at the University of Guelph, Masters student Nicole Libowitz studied the impact of the GrandPals Project on participating seniors.
The infographic summarizes key findings in her thesis entitled Understanding the Impact of GrandPals on Older Adult Participants.
The abstract explains,
"This community-engaged research project explored the experiences of 11 older adults, between the ages of 61 and 99, involved in GrandPals, a school-based, service-learning, intergenerational program. Participants shared their experiences through face-to-face interviews..." More
2020 - Broader Reach
Kimberly Hartnett and her Grade 3 students at Carmel River Elementary (California, USA), made use of the resources shared on www.grandpals.ca to launch a successful project in partnership with The Carmel Foundation.
From an article in the local Carmel Pinecone: "River School principal Jay Marden said the new program 'not only bridges the generation gap, but is of immense benefit to our kids as they learn...' More