By Lisa Carolin
How different is the experience of a sixth-grader today versus 50 years ago or more?
That was what some Beach Middle School sixth-graders wanted to know when they visited the Chelsea Senior Center on Nov. 30.
This was the third year of the Generations Interview, a collaboration between Beach teacher Amy Doma and Senior Center Program Manager Jennifer Smith. There were close to 80 sixth-grade students and 29 seniors who participated.
Small groups of students were paired up with seniors, and the students had the opportunity to ask questions they prepared such as, “Where did your ancestors come from?”
“What historical event was important to your family’s history?” and “Tell us about a place you went to feel safe when you were growing up?”
“The goal of the interviews is for sixth-graders to have a conversation with an adult from an older generation about what life was like when they were in sixth-grade,” explained Doma. “This year, our students are writing their own questions, which are focused around the essential question,’What can we learn from our senior to help us make responsible life decisions of our own.’”
Sixth-graders Addison Kennedy, Elise Miller, and William McCalla had the chance to ask senior Jean Dunn some questions. When asked what she thinks of all the changes that technology has brought, Dunn replied, “Technology has made things faster, but we don’t have the interaction between individuals so much anymore.”
McCalla said he enjoyed interviewing Dunn.
“It’s fun to learn more about what it was like when she was young,” he said.
Kennedy said, “You can learn a lot of good things and learn from her mistakes.”
The seniors appreciated the interview experience as well.
“This is a fantastic experience,” said Dunn. “These young people are so interesting.”
“This year the students are using National Public Radio’s StoryCorps App to record the interview,” said Doma. “Mr. Lott (Mike Lott, a sixth-grade teacher) has been focusing lessons on good listening skills, asking follow up questions, and what makes for a great conversation.”
Doma said that when they returned to Beach, students would present to the class what they learned from their senior and talk about how they will use that person’s wisdom in their own lives.
Trinh Pifer, executive director of the Chelsea Senior Center, said the Generations Interview is a mutually beneficial experience.
“The students were so polite, respectful, and asked great questions!” said Pifer. “The senior center loves to support opportunities that encourage different generations to share their stories, experiences, and talents. For many of our members, it’s wonderful to have these interactions with kids, especially if they have grandchildren and great grandchildren living far away. We think it’s valuable to cultivate a genuine sense of mutual respect and empathy across the different generations.”