• Cliff Geis-Poage

What's Intergenerational About It?

Whatcom Intergenerational High School looks to weave Phenomenon-Based Learning, Critical Literacy and Intergenerational Learning together in our academic program in order to provide more rigorous experiences for students in Whatcom County. While Phenomenon-Based Learning and Critical Literacy are more commonly understood ideas, many have asked us, "What's intergenerational about your school?"

Intergenerational Learning is the intentional incorporation of multiple generations across the school program, benefitting the younger generation of learners as well as the elders who share their knowledge and experiences with us. By giving opportunities for diverse generations to interact in a learning setting, WIHS hopes to built a network of relationships and support, reduce inaccurate stereotypes, and help build a sense of personal and societal identity.

Intergenerational learning is not a new concept. In fact, the informal ‘passing down’ of culture and knowledge between the eldest and youngest members of families goes back further than documented history. In some cultures, the relationships between elders and children remain as strong today as they always have, but it’s not always the case.

At WIHS volunteer elders meet daily with cohorts of students and teachers in community circles. They check in on socio-emotional indicators of health, set learning goals for the week, and develop an interconnected school culture. Throughout the week elders connect with students, taking a moment to talk, sharing a hobby during an affinity group, or helping with homework or projects. Elders also support the development of student's high school and beyond plans, determining the path to reach goals beyond secondary education. Students involved in intergenerational experiences are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, and skip school far less frequently.

In turn, elders have a valuable role in the community and experience better health indicators of their own. Older adults who volunteer live longer and have better physical and mental health—and older adults who regularly volunteer with youth “burn 20% more calories per week, experienced fewer falls, were less reliant on canes, and performed better on a memory test,” according to Generations United.

If you wish to learn more about our intergenerational learning goals or want to volunteer yourself, please contact us! We hope to include you in our community weave!