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Learning About Empathy While Giving Joy to Seniors

Students are thinking about the holidays and how things are different this year for so many ­– especially seniors. They’ve come up with a number of creative ways to support seniors, which has become even more important in these unusual times.

For example, eight classrooms at Chaffey-Burke Elementary, from Kindergarten to Grade 2, have created 180 personalized holiday cards for the “Be a Santa to a Senior” program. The program is managed by local businesses and includes gifts donated by the community. The student-made cards will be delivered alongside the presents.

The idea to get the students involved originated in Cathy Nielsen’s Kindergarten class, and was brought forward by student teacher Thea Tilston.

Ms Nielsen:

We were so happy to do this for the seniors, and for the students to learn about doing things to warm someone else’s heart.”

Many schools already had special relationships with nearby seniors’ centres before COVID-19 led to restricted visits. Student Council members at Gilmore Community School are collecting holiday arts and crafts made and donated by fellow students. The intent is to spread holiday cheer to seniors living at a nearby retirement home, Seton Villa.

Principal Maria Perez: 

Gilmore staff and students – in cohorts and following safety protocols – will also be dressing in festive gear wearing bells on their shoes, while parading past Seton Villa to wave to Seniors. The residents of Seton Villa will be watching from their windows at a pre-arranged time.”

Over at Stride Avenue Community School, students have been working on the “Sunshine Notes Project” with the Intentional Acts of Kindness Foundation and the City of Burnaby’s Citizen Support Services. The idea is to connect students with seniors through note writing and making both cards and art. Their contributions are included in packages of other goods delivered to seniors by volunteers. Student leaders and mentors at Burnaby North Secondary have also participated in the Sunshine Notes Project.

Many seniors, such as Zoe, are connecting back with students and sharing information about their lives:

I put your drawing on my fridge. It has a special spot right in the centre of the door where I can see it every time I open my fridge. I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and used to have lots of time to draw and paint in the winter because our school was closed for the months of January and February…Our school was a lot like the one at the Burnaby Village Museum. The desks are the same.”

The examples at Chaffey-Burke, Gilmore, Stride Avenue and Burnaby North are just some of the ways school staff and students in our district have been finding ways to build community, support each other in the midst of COVID-19, and spread hope and positivity at a time when people need it most.



Posted November 2020