By Lisa Carolin
Tracy Heydlauff’s fifth-grade class at South Meadows Elementary School is getting ready to perform a concert at the Chelsea Retirement Center this spring.
Getting students at South Meadows Elementary School together with seniors in the Chelsea community has been a popular and longstanding tradition.
South Meadows Principal Stacie Battaglia said, “It is an opportunity for learning and growth and an opportunity for lessons in empathy and acceptance. I hope that we can continue these very important partnerships for many, many years.”
Fifth-grade teacher Jeanne Caselli has been bringing classes to Silver Maples for 14 years.
“I believe it’s important for the kids and seniors to have a connection,” said Caselli. “Some of the kids don’t have grandparents who live nearby, and they miss out on learning about that generation. Many of the seniors do not have grandkids who visit either. We bring them smiles, energy and silliness.”
Caselli’s students share school projects with the seniors and show them how technology is changing the way they learn. Some years the students have written biographies about their senior partners.
“We have sing-a-longs, do craft projects together and write letters to each other,” said Caselli. “We play games and do service projects together. It changes every year.”
That includes the students performing a play that Caselli wrote about the differences between the two generations’ childhoods.
Heydlauff brings her classes to the Chelsea Retirement Center every month, something she says they look forward to doing so that they can see their senior friends.
“I believe that connecting our ‘wisest’ with our ‘newest’ generations is vital,” said Heydlauff. “The program helps bring together two diverse groups of people from our Chelsea community which not only leads to a strong friendship and bond but also leads to greater knowledge and even ‘tolerance’ among the two groups.”
Her students walk from South Meadows to the CRC in all types of weather, and while visiting they play bingo, board games and socialize.
“It’s such a wonderful and worthwhile program that they will always remember,” said Heydlauff.