This is one in a series in which readers share why their local school is special. Today, Northfield Community School seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher Mary Ann Devine shares a project begun by fellow teacher Fay Crooks.

“At Northfield Community School, we have a wonderful second-grade teacher, Fay Crooks, who for many years has worked with a local senior citizens center. This makes our school very special. The seniors work with the students throughout the year on a variety of projects. The students learn so much by working on intergenerational projects and from the seniors' life experiences. It is a remarkable program.”


Education Writer

Almost a decade ago Fay Crooks started taking her second-graders to visit senior citizens at the Meadowview Senior Nutrition Site in Northfield.

But as budgets and school requirements got tighter, it became more difficult to arrange for a bus to make the trip. So Crooks called and asked if any of the seniors might instead be willing to make a trip to the school. Some did, and she arranged for them to come in one Friday each month, for about an hour to do a project with the students.

“I just think there is so much information they can impart to the youth,” Crooks said. “The kids are nervous the first time they come in, but by the end of the year are very sad to see them go. It can be very emotional.”

She said the seniors also like having the opportunity to get out and socialize with the youngsters. Typically about five or six will participate, and some have been coming for years. A few have passed away, but Crooks keeps photos of them all, like members of an extended family.

“I have some students now whose siblings did it in my class and they are now in high school,” she said. “They can share, and catch up.”

During their April visit the students wrote a spring poem with the seniors. Then the students went into the school computer lab, found some clip art online, and turned the poems into greeting cards for their monthly visitors.

In May, the last visit of the school year, the class had a little end-of-the-year party celebrating “Happy Special Person’s Day.” The students sang some songs, shared some cake and presented their handmade cards to their special people.  

“It’s a social activity for both of them,” Crooks said. “Some students don’t have living grandparents, or grandparents that live nearby, and this gives them a little of that experience.”

Crooks said she typically starts the project in January as part the schoolwide effort to perform Acts of Kindness for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“But some of (the seniors) want me to start right away in September,” she said. “They really become like grandparents to the children.”

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