Young and old bond in Santa Monica

Crossroads School and Silvercrest residence join forces.


Crossroads School students and Silvercrest residents pose with Administrator Peter Linstead (far left) and teacher Diana Lynn Arnold (fourth from right).

The second grade class at Crossroads School in Santa Monica, Calif., studies “people who make a difference.” In 1995, teacher/counselor Diana Lynn Arnold’s fantastic idea of integrating community service into the classroom led to a long-term relationship with The Salvation Army’s nearby Silvercrest Senior Residence.

Throughout the year, seniors enjoy an ongoing connection with children who have come to develop friendships. The second-graders think of questions to ask selected residents about their lives. The biographies are written and edited during the writers’ workshop time, and hardcover books are made for each of the seniors.

A special song is written for the assembly at the end of the school year, where the seniors are invited to come and the children take turns reading aloud the biographies that they have written. In a new tradition, they present hard-bound copies of the stories to the children’s department of the Santa Monica Library.
This year the art teacher worked with Arnold on having the children make specialty tiles to be put out on the wall in the courtyard of the Silvercrest facility. The Topa Insurance Company, former employer of one resident, made a donation to Silvercrest for exercise equipment and upgrading of the facility’s patios. They also paid for the painting of the wall and for a tile contractor to put up the tiles.

During special holidays the children come to sing for the residents during lunchtime, enjoy eating with the seniors, and also make ornaments for the dining room Christmas tree.

Classroom parents play an important part in the success of this Service Learning curriculum, with their involvement and support of the vision of a full educational experience. The connections made with the youngest member of the Head Start families and the wonderful experiences with the seniors truly make a difference in the lives of those involved.

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