On July 15th Metroland News’ Reporter Kim Zarzour did a stellar job of capturing the experience of seniors in the community and Richmond Hill High School students who collaborated together through the Making Connections Project.  The project is a tri-partnership with Community Home Assistance to Seniors (CHATS), York Region Community Information and Volunteer Centre (YRCIVC – CIVICYork) and York Region District School Board (YRDSB), funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation for 2 years. The project encompasses unique learning for everyone involved, including steering committee members that guide the project with representatives from the 3 partner organizations. Experiential learning that involves moving outside of the walls of the schools, collaborating with community partners, providing students with opportunities to engage with those in their own community and create knowledge together, in this case in the form of stories, is a perfect example of one of the YRDSB’s priority areas – Modern Learning.  Modern learning encompasses authentic, relevant learning that allows students to create, connect and communicate their learning with others and prepares/equips them for the future.

As a result of the success of the inter-generational project at Richmond Hill High School (RHHS) this year, the team was accepted to present at the YRDSB’s QUEST International Conference in November which is aptly named “Deep Learning in Digital World”.

The vision of the project was to build the capacity in York Region for storytelling, digital storytelling, oral history production and digital literacy. In this last year of the project, another module that will be developed and utilized with students and other community sectors, is Community Reporting or Citizen Journalism. The project will expand opportunities for training, development and capacity for citizens in the region to learn and begin to partake in reporting on events, issues, and stories right in their own backyards. This also contributes to community building and interaction which can lead to citizen led, community based action and solutions to address any number of issues or concerns.

Another intention of the project has been to create a self-sustaining entity in the region that can generate revenue and employ young people who are interested in the work of the project. We have already encountered many youth with skills and interest in photography, digital production, animation, the arts, storytelling and journalism who are keen to participate either through their school involvement or as an additional activity outside of school. Some have expressed learning through this project, that they have an interest in working with seniors, or digital production so the experience has opened up a realm of possibilities that young people may not have known existed prior to the project, as options for them upon graduation from high school.

For those of us who had an interesting idea over two years ago, about building the capacity for storytelling in York Region we are thrilled to see how many opportunities the project has given rise to for young people, seniors and the community at large.

To view Kim Zarzour’s Metroland article – York Seniors and Youth Making Connections