The 'Living Scenes' project is co-ordinated by the Adult and Continuing Education Department at NUI Galway and involves a core group of fifty retired adults working with the transition-year students (16 year olds), for a two and a half-hour weekly slot on four identified modules, namely Music, Art, Drama and Writing. Learning is facilitated by Tutors who adhere to University-defined operational guidelines. Presentation Secondary School has appointed an internal Co-ordinator for this project.
The aim of the project is to promote the sharing of culture, heritage, tradition and experience between older and younger members of society in an educational setting. Participants are encouraged to discover common links between both generations, to foster mutual respect for each other and to promote active and experiential learning.
"Living Scenes has endeavoured to respond to evident "gaps" emerging in the fabric of our communities", says Mary Surlis, Project Officer, NUI Galway. "This is evident in the disintegration of the family unit and in particular that of the extended family, where increasingly, grandparents and grandchildren are alienated from each other by a constantly changing cultural and social environment".
Presentation Secondary School Principal Michael McCann, says that "the non-judgmental attitude of the older adults, has an empowering effect on the transition year students, facilitating them to feel secure and confident in themselves in a learning environment." He went on to say that, "in keeping with the ethos of transition year, this project sees experiential learning taking place in an active and informal environment, which greatly enhances the holistic development of the students."
Ann De Búrca, "Living Scenes" school-based co-ordinator says, "As a teacher co-ordinating the project in the school for the last three years, I have seen the project enhance the self-development and maturity of each group of students in turn. Perhaps the most significant and evident contribution of the project has been the enabling and empowering effect of the older adults' participation on the transition year students". According to Ms. De Búrca, the adults in their dedication, enthusiasm and zest for life and living, has greatly enriched the five transition-year classes who have been privileged to be part of the project. "It has been a liberating and positive learning experience for all of us involved with "Living Scenes"", she says.
Academic research has been carried out on "Living Scenes" to evaluate the project in a developmental curricular capacity and to identify its contribution in an educational context in a transition year secondary school programme. The findings of this research have implications for policy makers, as well as school and community groups interested in initiating change in a curricular context.