Intergenerational cup.

Yesterday I got to attend the pilot of linking generations first online intergenerational training. It is always amazing to work with the people involved with LGNI as they are so sincere, supportive and put so much into what they do. It was wonderful to get a day to focus on an area that means so much to me. I’d recommend keeping an eye out for this accredited training. Intergenerational practice is special and if you want to learn how it works you are in knowledgable and friendly hands with the team. This first session, with people from all across the UK, was just excellent and I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to connect with new people. Intergenerational work seems to always bring the most wonderful individuals together. It was also incredibly humbling to be able to share some of what we have done with others and to be able to discuss some of what we have learnt as a college team in our own project.

In preparation for today, we were asked to design our own intergenerational cup and consider our starting point. It’s been a tough year on intergenerational opportunities and having the chance to reflect back left me so proud of the student team. This project makes a difference. When we first started out, we didn’t know if it would last past the first month. As I filled up my cup with photos, I felt quite emotional on all that we have done over the last three years.

So what have we done? The project started with students pitching ideas on an intergenerational project. We decided on a café craft monthly event and since then we’ve seen an average attendance of over 60 people attend each session from all generations. Early years students designed activities that supported the children’s curriculum through play based activities and to say this project has brought both learning and joy is an understatement. This introduction to our first session, which allowed us to learn new tech skills, is one of my favourite teaching resources 😍 SWC Café introduction .

We’ve worked with a range of care homes, independent living organisations and got out into our community. Students have engaged with people they wouldn’t usually and they’ve shown that FE learning can be done in really innovative ways where students are in charge of decisions through project based learning and decide on what they want to do. Student and staff’s families have attended and we’ve got to know each other that little better.

We entered and won (!!) the linking generations online carol singing competition, all dressed up in our Christmas attire and singing loudly. This was our first link with LGNI and since then we have spoke at their network event and they kindly came to speak at a student led seminar where students presented their work to educators and headteachers, inspiring a range of local schools and playgroups to implement their own intergenerational projects (good always ripples, we’ve seen that in ambundance with this work).

Students won a student focus award for their practice and we’ve shared our learning with many. Researchers from universities and government departments have interviewed us to see how intergenerational learning can support education and I’ve had the opportunity to present our work at conferences with attendees from right across the globe and that felt pretty special.

Myself and another member of the EY team have both used the intergenerational project to complete our own dissertations with two areas of focus – one on how intergenerational learning supports children’s literacy development and one on the impact on emotional wellbeing. Students also carried out their own action research as we progressed through the sessions.

I was asked to talk about our association of colleges beacon award in the training session. To be a finalist was a huge thing for us, particularly with such a new project. We have such respect for all the amazing work that goes on across the UK in FE colleges and to see little Dungannon get to this stage felt such a huge achievement. Our work was recognised for the reality of what it was – real social action and students making a difference in their communities. The project never set out for awards, it was for making our college experience the best we could and to be recognised for their genuine hard work was great.

I want to reiterate what I said in the training, this was not just our award but an award for anyone who invests in this type of project. You can feel as if you are going against the grain and you can be faced with such a range of barriers but, use the awards, the research and the past experience of others to support you in moving forward. It was for everyone who has committed to making a difference to our society.

I have learnt so much from this project and gained so many valuable friendships. FE colleges are in a key position to do this type of practice and I would encourage anyone thinking about it to give it a go. You’ll soon find the network of us in the background ready to give support ☺️.

As I filled up my cup, I was taken aback on just how much we’ve done. Our EY team have danced and sung their way through their qual, whilst building the most valuable skills needed for life and their future careers. With restrictions as they are right now, unfortunately our Café has had to go on hold but we have kept our links through letters, calls and activities such as the LGNI network meetings. We’ve also got Linking Generations to be grateful to who are leading second years in an intergenerational online art project very soon through the Arts Council and we just can not wait to get started 😍!

Twitter: @ColeFey

FB: Mrs C’s Early Years Education Forum NI.

Please feel free to contact through the social media platforms if you would like to find out more about the project.

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