May 20 2009 Posted: 00:00 IST
A groundbreaking educational programme, which brings teenagers and retirees together in the classroom, celebrated 10 years of success last night. Originating from NUI Galway's Adult and Continuing Education Office, 'Living Scenes' is an intergenerational programme of learning involving Transition Year students and local retired adults. It is the pioneering programme of its kind in Ireland and Europe, possibly even worldwide. Through weekly art, music, drama and creative writing workshops, Living Scenes allows teenagers and older adults to learn together, share experiences and build bonds of mutual respect and understanding. A strong emphasis is placed on the holistic development of the participants, promoting equality, personal development and confidence building in both the younger and older adults. The innovative programme was first piloted in Galway City's Presentation Secondary School in 1999, and quickly became established in as part of its Transition Year. Living Scenes has since developed and expanded through partnerships between NUI Galway and five further secondary schools: Calasanctius College, Oranmore, Co. Galway; Millstreet Community School, Millstreet, Co. Cork; St Flannan's College, Ennis, Co. Clare; St Joseph's Secondary School, Charlestown, Co. Mayo; and St Joseph's Secondary School, Tulla, Co. Clare. A major entertainment production was staged in the Ardilaun Hotel last night involving all of the current participants in Living Scenes, representing the six schools. Clíona Ní Néill, Principal of Presentation Secondary School, Galway, praised the programme: "Living Scenes is a highly valued project in Presentation Secondary School. It has taught young people to value an older generation, and conversely it has given the older generation a new and positive lens to understand and enjoy teenagers. Students have benefited hugely in the areas of personal development, communication and confidence building skills. It has enriched our students understanding of life, given them a broader perspective, and it has created a sense of community in the school. We are delighted as a staff and as a school to be associated and involved with NUI Galway in this programme". In the course of its ten year history, the programme has been instrumental in cultivating a strong relationship between the University and schools, older and younger adults, and has a key objective of promoting the school as a focal point for community regeneration. NUI Galway's Dr Mary Surlis is the Living Scenes Programme Director, and the has been involved since its inception: "At a time when there is a serious erosion of social fabric evident in Irish society, Living Scenes aims to respond to the growing need for communication and trust in both the school and in the local community. What we are trying to do is to regenerate relationships both in schools and communities and, perhaps more importantly, between our older and our younger generations". Extensive research has been carried out by Dr Surlis on Living Scenes to evaluate the project in a developmental curricular capacity and to identify its contribution in an overall educational context. Dr Surlis says: "The findings of this research have implications for policy makers, as well as school and community groups interested in initiating change in a curricular and social context". President of NUI Galway, Dr James J. Browne: "NUI Galway is committed to a strong ethos of civic engagement. We develop this by fostering a sense of social responsibility and citizenship amongst students and by working to share the knowledge resources of the University with the wider community. The Living Scenes programme of intergenerational learning is the embodiment of that ethos – reaching from the University into the heart of the community to work with schools and with older people. As President, I am proud of the unique and pioneering work which NUI Galway has led, through Living Scenes, in building social cohesion in Ireland".