Intergenerational programming is traditionally structured in a model that puts the older adult into a mentor role of the younger person. Often it is the younger person who creates the work inspired by the older adult’s storytelling or mentorship.
School One turned this model on its head and created new paths to learning for both the older adults and the younger students. Intentional planning and working closely with their teaching artists led School One to develop a storytelling and performance curriculum that honored the voices and contributions of both older and younger students. Together, people in all generations explored the art form, took risks, shared their stories, and performed as equal players for a public audience.
School One wanted to make intergenerational programming a part of their school’s curriculum and to integrate and embed it into their culture and mission.
Their core values are focused on providing a robust arts program to high school students in a context that emphasizes self-expression, caring relationships, respect and support. They wanted to ensure that this program would align with those values, and that the learning, creativity and expression of the skills were experienced and reciprocal for both younger and older students.
School One believes that storytelling requires self-exposure, vulnerability and risk-taking. Their challenge was to create strong bonds among participants through deep engagement in a very personal and revelatory art form.
Working very closely with their teaching artists to create a curriculum which honored all the voices and contributions of the students, they created a program that prioritized process over product.
With a focus on the art forms of writing and storytelling, participants saw one another more fully as human beings through the sharing of their stories. The school balanced their desired outcomes of a final performance, with the ongoing encouragement of the participants to explore the art form in their own directions, with the invitation to enjoy themselves and the freedom to make mistakes.
School One’s teaching artists set time aside at the start of “Working Stories,” and throughout, for continued planning, assessment of goals and milestones so that they were responsive and in tune with the student’s process and input.
The teaching artists created a curriculum template that they used for each of the three cycles so that they could continue to refine each session. The template consisted of 4 phases:
- Orientation: Introduce participants to one another and to the concept of storytelling in a fun, relaxed way. This phase of the program also served to establish trust and a safe, supportive environment, and a feeling of community.
2. Learning/Process: Use prompts and exercises in creative writing, performance, and storytelling to all our participants each week. The teaching artists guided exploration, taught skills for peer-to-peer critiquing and encouraged collaboration.
3. Rehearsal/Performance: Before each culminating event, their teaching artists led a “mock” performance with rehearsals. The culminating event was a final performance and celebration showcasing the stories written and created during the nine weeks of the program.
4. The Celebration: The week after the culminating performance, they brought the group together to share a meal and talk about what they learned, enjoyed or felt about their experiences.
Host Organization Name
Host Organization Description
School One is a small, independent high school in Providence serving students from across Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Founded in 1973, School One has held on to many of the core values of its founders, a group of parents who sought an alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach at most high schools. These core values include a creative, personalized curriculum; a strong sense of community; an inclusive environment for at-risk students; and student self-expression.
Their mission statement reads: “At School One, we teach students to think, write, analyze, and create. As a community, we treat each other with care and respect. We appreciate each other’s differences as people and as learners.”
Host Organization Website
School One created a series of three storytelling programs called “Working Stories” in 2017/2018. “Working Stories” was an intergenerational arts project bringing together high school students and adults over 65 to creatively explore life and work experiences through storytelling.
The program was unique to Rhode Island, and bridged the gap between generations with art making, storytelling, sharing and learning. The program was coordinated by Diana Champa, Director of Literary Engagement at School One, and in partnership with Hamilton House and Laurelmead Cooperative.
School One used an art studio and a performance space during the program.
Internally, the program was promoted to stakeholders via the school’s mailing list, their newsletter, and word of mouth (also true for partner organizations). A press release on the program was also picked up by East Side Monthly, Barrington Times, Senior Digest, Timeout, Cranston Patch, and East Side Living. Finally, they advertised on the local NPR Station.
The culminating events consisted of public performances and exhibitions at libraries and other cultural centers in the community.
Seeding Vitality Arts US
Aroha Philanthropies’ Seeding Vitality Arts US enables a diverse cohort of organizations across America to develop and implement high quality, intensive arts learning opportunities for older adults.
The initiative’s goals are to:
- Demonstrate the power and impact of creative aging programs to a broad national audience.
- Encourage arts and cultural organizations to develop participatory arts education programs for older adults.
- Encourage organizations that serve older adults to develop arts education programming.
- Refine and disseminate effective program models.
Case Study Details
case study topicsInnovative Curriculum, Intergenerational Programing, Teaching Artist Focus
organization typeAcademic Institutions, Arts Organizations
art formLiterary Arts, Performing Arts, Visual Arts
program site typeArts Organizations
includes virtual programming?No
8-12 sessions @ 90-120 min.
funding sourcePrivate Foundation