Grade 9 students at Cambridge Narrows Community School have embarked on an important new project that puts them in touch with local residents at the Mill Cove Nursing Home in order to learn about their lives and document their stories.
"This biography project has allowed us to experiment with a project that is fluid in nature," said teacher Heather Bailey. "Even though there were clear expectations for the project, students are inherently making the project and questions their own, based on the experience they have with the residents. We've had to work very hard at communicating student to student, teacher to student, and student to resident in order to keep things running smoothly. Though this has been challenging, it is rewarding to see the students taking ownership of their work and try to get more comfortable in taking charge of their learning."
Students visited the nursing home once per week, spending quality time with the residents to write and then print their biographies. They were paired up with the residents to record interviews, all the while learning patience, empathy, respect, listening and writing skills and communication. Special software, designed to assist individuals with health or memory issues, was used to assist with the interview process. Students were coached on how to conduct interviews, ask questions and think quickly to follow conversational leads. Then they would return to school to review the audio file in their next class and better organize the information they gathered.
As the visits unfolded, it wasn't long before students overcame any shyness they had about talking with their new friends. On the bus ride back to school, they often shared stories they heard, excited by the connections they made with the residents. Many had neighbours, friends and family members in common.
"The experiential approach to learning through communication, collaboration and self-awareness is a key facet to this project," a newsletter from Principal Amber Bishop stated. "Not only are students taking responsibility for their work as individuals, they are creating connections outside of the classroom that facilitate their overall social growth as a constructive member of their community. Their (biography) projects enable them to master key outcomes, but have the fundamental importance of being created as a gift to their partnered resident. Attaching purpose to a project is all the more motivating for students to engage and self-direct."
Some students enjoyed the experience so much they are considering pursuing a career in geriatric care or practical nursing after graduation. The partnership between the school and the nursing home is expected to continue into the fall. On May 17, this year's Grade 9 students celebrated with the residents with a trivia contest, and cake and refreshments at the nursing home.
The biography project was made possible through a grant provided by iHub, a non-profit research organization dedicated to supporting innovative education in the Anglophone public education sector in New Brunswick.
Shown in the photos below are (1) Students visiting the Mill Cove Nursing Home (left to right, back row): Molly Richardson, Jamie Boyd, Jillian Boyd, Kody Rasmussen, Abby Duffy, Curtis Champion, Austin Sleep, Pastor Chris Price, Cody Gates and Cameron Boyd. Front row: Residents Ethel Northrup, Paula Fawcett, Everett Moss and Bruce Gosman; (2) Cody Gates, Kody Rasmussen, resident Paula Fawcett, and Molly Richardson.