Teaching Plan/Objective: Service Learning Plan for Elder Services (Professional Development Module)
Elders as Resources programs address a number of the social, psychological and cognitive needs of students in five major areas of development:
Realistic Portrayal of Adults- Students understand that older adults have as varied a background as they do -- different personalities, ethnic heritage, culture, etc. By providing direct experience with older adults, stereotypes are avoided that overly glamorize or denigrate old age.
Development of a positive attitude towards aging- Students understand that humans age and realize that some decisions made in youth carry over into adulthood. Direct experience with older adults in controlled settings are more effective in helping to change attitudes than rote learning or discussions without relative examples.
Understanding of life-decisions -- Stories from elders help students understand that at each point in life different decisions are made that impact the course of their life -- and what some of those consequences are (positive and negative). This tends to help students evaluate their own decisions related to diet, exercise, substance use, education and personal relationships.
Experience working with older people -- Students in the 21st century live in a society that has a much higher percentage of older adults than any previous generation. Still, older adults are often marginalized and rarely interact with youth -- many youth believing "old people" have nothing to offer. Experience and communication with older adults is transferable to future family and work situations that also involve older people.
Transmission of knowledge and values -- Older adults have a wealth of information that may be transferable to students of all ages. In the elementary classroom they can help students with basic subject matter and explain relevance; in middle and high school they can bring insights into historical and social events never found in texts. Programs in multicultural awareness may also be enhanced with presentations and interviews from older adults (Newman & Brummel, 1989; (Bage, 1999).
Attendees and Rationale -- The workshop will be open to all teachers, but specifically designed for those who may integrate lessons based on elderly inclusion in the secondary classroom (literature or social studies/civics). Additional presentations may be made by experts in elder care or psychology (by invitation), designed to offer suggestions and techniques to engage the elderly and help students understand what older adults can offer.
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Research done by a joint effort of the American Association for Retired Persons and the National Academy for Teaching and Learning about Aging found evidence that a majority of American children hold negative views of the elderly. This discovery should be no surprise. The elderly are revered in many other societies, but American society worships the young and beautiful. It's perplexing to think that the world's greatest country doesn't give the aged the deference that they've earned. If adults display little veneration for the elderly, children will model their example. However, the example set by adults is not solely responsible for children's negative views. According to Gene Cohen, the director of the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities, children's views concerning older people are greatly influenced by the books, stories and verse they are exposed to at an early age. A good example is a verse from a traditional folk song - "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly. I dunno why she swallowed the fly. Perhaps she'll die." With such verse, beloved as it is for its fun and nonsense, and with the portrayals of wickedness and wretchedness of older people in some Grimm or Anderson fairy tales, is it any wonder that elderly are viewed as silly, inconsequential and utterly disposable? (American Library Association, 2007).
Preassessment and Prior Knowledge -- Without understanding the past, scholars say, we cannot attempt to understand the future. Begin by bringing group into a circle and passing out a single sheet of paper and pencil/pen.
1. Ask students to define what it means to be old or elderly and why they believe that to be true?
2. Ask students: (replace grandparents with older adults if necessary): When was the last time you sat down with your grandparent or elderly parent and asked them to tell you about the old days? Have you ever done so? When was the last time you asked these same people their advice or opinion on anything from a recipe to world events?
3. Place students in groups of 3-5, depending on class size. Ask students to brainstorm, then fill in the chart below (a larger version would be passed out) Ask students to quickly draw a timeline of how they perceive a typical life span, for instance:
On the top line, have them label life stage (e.g. birth, childhood, adolescence, etc.) along with the approximate year span (e.g. infancy 1-3, etc.)
On the bottom line, for each stage, define the characteristics that come to mind for them (e.g. infancy = dependence, small world view, etc.)
Brainstorm and find the commonalities, be prepared to present to the class as part of a group discussion.
(This data will help in formative assessment of stereotypes, bias, preconceptions, etc. The discussion will likely allow for robust interaction and debate.). (See: (Tyndale, 2005).
Sample Lesson Plan and Rationale - "Documenting an Elder's Journey - Students can learn a great deal about a past they will never know, or at least a perspective about that past. In addition, students who interview are working with language and communication skills to develop a plan, process that plan, and then integrate the results. This lesson addresses the following curriculum requirements:
Communications -- Prose development, group communication, speech writing and presentation.
Reading -- Archetypes (Joseph Campbell, etc.), Subject matter as assigned
Writing -- Writing for different genres (research, interview, factual, speech)
Social Studies -- Researching historical period, integrating interview with standard sources; higher level thinking (analysis and synthesis).
Technology -- students will present their findings via oral and PowerPoint, may use electronic devices to interview, take notes, and prepare research.
Activity Overview -- A "pool" of elder experts will be developed using students' relatives or friends, community members, etc. On each of these experts, there will be at least one historical subject frame (e.g. WWII, WWII life at home, Vietnam, Korean War, etc.). Try to be as specific as possible, deal with broad subject for research, social history for interview. Process as follows:
Choose time span, decade, event, micro or macro, geographic area, focus.
1 paragraph plan and outline of proposed research. Format as proposal.
Critical thinking, writing, reading.
Assessment: organization of proposal, grammar, vocabulary, relationship to assignment
Meet elder, discuss plan, make schedule
Report of schedule and plan
Communications, writing; Assessment: viability and sense of plan
Meetings, interviews, notes
Reading, writing, communication, self-assessments
Primary and secondary research on topic
Rough draft of paper and presentation
See above; assessment- meet with instructor to review progress and rough draft, instructor provides suggestions, reviews bibliography
Presentation to Colleagues
PP or short presentation 3-8 minutes, autobiography of elder
Communications: Assessment: organization, quality of presentation, class and self-assessments.
Writing Process; rough draft
Final paper including factual research combined with Elder interview
Submission of final paper; instructor's comments, suggestions, rewrite or refocus as needed.
Student, invite elder
Presentation to Colleagues
15-20 minute presentation; Power Point showing evolution of topic and including elder insights
See above: Assessment: cohesive presentation, quality questions, professional demeanor, spelling and grammar conventions; ability to synthesize materials.
Reflection -- One of the most exciting things about working with an assignment that will eventually be taught is that it forces several issues: 1) We must break the unit apart into coherent learning targets; 2) We must go outside our own paradigm to find and embrace, a different point-of-view from our own; 3) When we examine the learning targets, we often find that there are far more "spaces" for divergent learning, and therefore must hone onto the issues that are most relevant. This becomes even more apparent when working with colleagues on the development of a larger lesson. Because everyone has different past experiences, the ideas they bring to collaboration enhance the experience tremendously.
From my perspective, though, the power of this assignment was the background research on perceptions of the elderly within contemporary society. Much of what I learned did not end up in this plan, but was more background research. About 25% of the elderly are victims of elder abuse and neglect, and another 25% have some form of mental issue; varying from depression to other disorders, that remain undiagnosed because "that's the way old people act." Then, I reflect back on what my peers thought about people in their 50-60s, we thought that was old; and for my students, anything over 35 is old; mostly in life experience. We must remember that this current generation has never been without the Internet, dramatic special effects in movies, cell phones,…