FAIRBORN — Just before Fairborn schools let out for the holidays, students at Fairborn Intermediate School proved that wisdom, even digitally, transcends all generations. With help from their teachers, students were able to connect with senior residents of two local nursing homes using video chat, reading stories, poems, and sharing artwork with the residents.
The event was entirely orchestrated by the teachers at Fairborn Intermediate. English Language teacher Sarah Diaz came up with the idea, and enlisted the help of her students, who come from all three grade levels. Diaz and her students were able to get their classes involved.
“My great-grandmother was in a nursing home,” Diaz said on Tuesday. “She’s passed now, but around the holidays we used to do things for her and the other residents. The pandemic has been hard on them and the students. It’s a great way to bring nursing homes and students together and bring a smile to everyone’s faces.”
Fairborn Intermediate teachers connected with Wright Rehabilitation Healthcare Center in Fairborn, as well as Dayspring of Miami Valley, and were able to stream the children’s video to the residents via Google Meet. Classes that participated in the project include Ms. Mitchell’s 3rd grade class, the 4th grade classes of Ms. Cornwell, Ms. Hilty, Ms. Benchic and Ms. Balogh, and the 5th grade classes of Ms. Bair, Ms. Minoughan and Ms. Bowman.
Ms. Benchic’s 4th grade class read a Christmas story to the seniors, reader’s theater style, complete with props that teachers had delivered to the students themselves. The child playing Rudolph had a red nose, and another kid had a festive tie. Children constructed their face cam backgrounds out of red and green construction paper.
Other classes read books, shared artwork, or had their pets jump into the video frame. Some had their parents and siblings sharing in the fun in the background.
“The facilities responded back and worked out the technology piece,” said Wyatt. “For one, they had them on a phone, another time they had them on a laptop going around to show the residents.”
The ability to connect people digitally, and the increased use of technology during the pandemic has been the biggest silver lining, according to Diaz.
“It’s definitely been a challenge,” she said. “But it’s also showed us a different way to teach and to learn. The kids have worked really hard, and showed a lot of tenacity through this. They’ve shown how strong they are and how hard they can work on their own.”
At the end of the story, the children began asking questions of the residents.
“Originally, they started typing them in the chat, but the nurses couldn’t keep up,” said Fairborn Intermediate principal Betsy Wyatt. “So the teachers stepped in and the kids took turns asking questions.”
One student asked if a resident had any words of wisdom to share. The resident answered,”Be honest and tell the truth.”
“The thing that really got me was seeing the nurses with their hair up, and the masks on and shields on and all the PPE,” Wyatt said. “The staff did everything they could to reach out and have those conversations. And the kids could smile at [the residents] because they were on screen, they didn’t have to wear masks. I think sometimes you miss that, seeing a real smile.”
“This incredible event was so special to all involved, and reminds all of us that all learning does not take place from a book or computer; but from the thoughtful and creative ideas of teachers and students, and a willingness to do something that impacts others,” Fairborn City Schools said.
Reach London Bishop at (937) 502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.