The Living Scenes programme in Millstreet Community School, Co. Cork has been awarded second place in an EU Commission competition, celebrating the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. At a ceremony in Brussels recently, Millstreet Community School beat off 1,000 schools from 30 countries to win this major accolade and put intergenerational learning in Ireland on the European radar.
The Living Scenes programme, which is designed, implemented and funded by NUI Galway, has been in existence since 1999 and is currently in eight centres throughout Ireland. A Transition Year based initiative, NUI Galway’s Living Scenes allows teenagers and older adults to learn together, share experiences and build bonds of mutual respect and understanding through a curricular based programme of learning. A strong emphasis is placed on the holistic development of the participants, promoting equality, personal development, well being and confidence building in both the younger and older adults.
The winning entry from Millstreet Community School saw retired adults and teenagers from the school create a multi-media programme aimed at bridging the gap between young and old. The Living Scenes group created an intergenerational rap song; compiled a book titled Two Generations, One Road; and used clay, wood, tiles, glass, and metal to create a permanent display about crossing the generational divide to scoop their prestigious award.
The generations@school Project is organised by the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations and is about engaging pupils and seniors in intergenerational dialogue. This year the focus is on bringing together pupils and older people to engage in a conversation about what it means to get older and how older and younger people can collaborate for a better life.
Living Scenes is the brainchild of NUI Galway's Dr Mary Surlis, and as the Living Scenes Programme Director, she has developed the programme on a national level. Commenting on the award, Dr Surlis said: “This is a wonderful achievement for the Living Scenes Programme and in particular for John Magee, Pat Piggott and his staff, the outstanding participants and facilitation team in Millstreet Community School. Such an achievement cements the programme as a world class example of civic engagement from a university perspective and also highlights the value of experiential learning in a school’s curriculum.”
Congratulating Millstreet Community School on its success, NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne said: “This is a wonderful example of intergenerational learning in Millstreet. It also highlights the prioritisation of civic engagement here at NUI Galway. I would like to congratulate all involved in the project – teachers, school leadership, students, seniors and my own colleagues here in the University - on their tremendous achievement in winning this prestigious EU Commission prize.
John Magee, co-ordinator of the Living Scenes programme at Millstreet Community School, said: “This is a wonderful achievement for our school. I would like to thank Dr Mary Surlis, Living Scenes Programme Director, and NUI Galway, who have supported the project in Millstreet from the start. Over the seven years that Living Scenes has been in Millstreet Community School, a great many friendships have been formed between the older adults and the 80 students who have taken part in the project over that time. Rather than one group assuming the role of ‘expert’ on a certain topic, people from both age groups have been given the opportunity to work collaboratively, learning about one another along the way. A lot of misconceptions about ‘youth and old age’ have been dispelled through the work of the project.”