Berwick benefits from kindergarten spirit

Schoolchildren and seniors get together every week for art classes at local assisted living facility

Valley View kindergarten student Matea Vosberg and her mom Tanya celebrate Mother’s Day during a tea hosted by Berwick Comox Valley. Valley View kindergarten students

Valley View kindergarten student Matea Vosberg and her mom Tanya celebrate Mother’s Day during a tea hosted by Berwick Comox Valley. Valley View kindergarten students

A pilot program bringing young and old together to create art will run again next year due to this year’s success.

Berwick Comox Valley and School District 71 partnered to bring Valley View kindergarten students to the retirement community each week throughout the school year to take art class alongside Berwick residents.

Berwick hosted a Mother’s Day tea Thursday with the Berwick residents, the students and their mothers and grandmothers, during which district director of instruction for elementary schools Allan Douglas spoke about the program’s success.

“We started with a handful of our residents, two, three, four, and at the last count when I was there we were up to about 15 residents,” Douglas told the large dining room of people. “It’s just such a delight to learn from them (residents), and the energy between the little ones and our residents has been so unbelievably powerful.

“I want to thank each and every one of the residents for being part of our program, because without you, there’d be no program.”

Valley View’s two kindergarten classes alternate Thursday mornings at Berwick so that each class goes every two weeks. A variety of art forms have been featured this year, from painting, to clay modelling, to drumming.

Berwick resident Barbara Shearer, 89, is one of the original participants.

“I haven’t missed a day,” she said, noting she’s gotten to know quite a few of the kids now. “It’s been wonderful. I’ve really enjoyed it, every minute of it.”

According to Berwick general manager Jackie Holt, residents have responded “very warmly” to the program.

“They came out of drumming and one of the oldest ladies in the program said, ‘I haven’t had so much fun since I was six years old,’” recalled Holt.

“Not only do they gain from the interaction between themselves and the children, but they actually are doing things that they never did as children before — because when you go back 80 years, children were not treated in the same way at school. They weren’t given these opportunities to explore and express themselves; it was reading, writing and arithmetic for them. So, they’re experiencing modern schooling.”

Valley View kindergarten teacher Debra Fullerton said this program has been one of the most rewarding experiences in her career, and her students have grown, thanks to the program.

“There’s been a big shift in confidence; some of the children were very hesitant around the residents, but now they’re very connected,” she said. “It’s exceeded my expectations of what I thought it would be, just in terms of, really the connections that have been made between the residents and the students.”

The program will continue next year in the same format as this year with Valley View kindergarten students.


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