Connecting with Elders

One assignment from my biome unit asked students to contact an elder in their family and ask them about life growing up. I provided a list of questions to guide the conversation and then asked them to compare their own experience with those experiences of the elders. The focus was on time in nature and access to food. After the conversation, students wrote a journal entry and we talked about the comparisons at our next class.

Though I did not read the journal entries students wrote about the conversations (I wanted them to remain personal and close to the heart), I did ask them to complete a survey asking where the person interviewed grew up. I was amazed at the diversity of locations. Of the 50 students, only six interviewed a local elder (within 20 miles or so). There were people from nine different states. But the rest were from other countries – Mexico, India, South Korea, China, Poland, Vietnam, The Philippines, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Ghana. I was so surprised at this representation of the globe in my relatively small class. I was also so happy to know all of these people were able to have their children or grandchildren share a space in my classroom.

In your class, I encourage you to have students reach out to their elders. This activity was the first time this year that I had students call (I required a phone call, no texting) an elder. Last year, I had two other activities require students to make this connection. During our “Stay at Home” time, these connections become invaluable for both the students and the elders. We are all craving just a little more human connection. Additionally, our elders have so much to share that we can learn from them. Without the prompt or push to start these conversations, our youth generally will not reach out. Push them!

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