It’s been proven how beneficial the arts are to seniors, and it’s also been proven how interacting with those in different generations can benefit both young and old. So when the two are combined, beautiful things are bound to happen.
“My class last year wrote poems in several different styles that were inspired/based on the barn quilt watercolors created in Joan Allen’s class. The idea had its nexus in the fact that Sharla and I share a commitment to creating opportunities for interactions between generations,” said Barney Pontious, fourth grade teacher at Parsons Elementary. “She is a strong believer in the benefits of this and approached me about this project. I immediately accepted this chance because poetry is a large element of the fourth grade curriculum here in Parsons, and it ties in well with my style of writing instruction.”
The project was a huge success, and students embraced the opportunity with passion.
“My students quickly grabbed on to this chance for them to be ‘professional poets.’ Each student chose a picture to use as inspiration for their poetry. Luckily we had already written numerous styles of poetry, and I allowed the students to choose any style that they felt comfortable with. Some chose free verse. Some chose to use rigid rhyming schemes. Some even chose to use shape poems along with many other styles,” said Barney. “In short the students really embraced this and took a chance to develop some pride in their writing. Many of them invited their families and friends to see their poetry displayed at the exhibit. This gave them a chance to see their work displayed and really inspired some to continue writing poetry.”
While it was obvious that the students were excited about the project, there were some surprising reactions.
“The students who excelled and embraced this project were probably the most surprising part to me. Many tough little boys really reached out to another part of their personalities to work on this project. I saw a side to a number of young men that I hadn’t seen much previously. I was also impressed how the self-efficacy of my students increased with respect to writing on this project. Some students who had considered themselves to be less-able writers really did well on this project. The feeling that they got seeing their writing in a frame and talking to the other artists at the AIA fair was fun to watch.”
This year, the project has been expanded to include Sami Pontious’ third-grade class (Sami is Barney’s wife) and Hope Smith’s sixth-grade class. They will be exhibiting poems and stories describing “colorful selfies” painted by Joan Allen’s watercolor class.
“I am happy that my wife has been selected to do this project this year. She is a strong writing teacher and really has a good heart for collaboration with the outside community in her classroom. I anticipate a wonderful finished product from her kids as well,” said Barney.
Who knows? Perhaps this combination of art and intergenerational relationships will spark a nationwide movement. It’s certainly a powerful project.
“One main point that I made to my students with this idea is that art can bridge the generations. We talked about how many things actually make up ‘art.’ During this project we saw many examples of how art can speak to people of all ages and how it can be a lifelong pursuit as well. Watching my students interact with the artists, the community and other residents at the manor showed that some of the major objectives of my teaching were being met. Aside from the poems the students were effective communicators and good 21st century citizens during this project. They embraced the chance to speak with the public about their poems and, in sharing them with the public, made connections that they will always remember.”