NUI Galway's Intergenerational Learning Programme to Represent Ireland in Major EU Competition

Monday, 30 April 2012

Pictured from left: Dean of Arts, Dr Edward Herring, NUI Galway; Hedy Gibbons, Writer;  Orla O’Flynn from Living Scenes in Calasanctius College in Oranmore; Rebecca Kane and Larry Carey from Living Scenes in the Presentation Secondary School Galway; and Dr Mary Surlis, Director, Living Scenes at NUI Galway.
Pictured from left: Dean of Arts, Dr Edward Herring, NUI Galway; Hedy Gibbons, Writer; Orla O’Flynn from Living Scenes in Calasanctius College in Oranmore; Rebecca Kane and Larry Carey from Living Scenes in the Presentation Secondary School Galway; and Dr Mary Surlis, Director, Living Scenes at NUI Galway.

The ‘Living Scenes’ intergenerational learning programme at NUI Galway has been selected to represent Ireland in a European Commission Intergenerational Competition. The generations@school Project is organised by the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations and is about engaging pupils and seniors in intergenerational dialogue.

Since 2009, Europe has celebrated a European Day of Solidarity between Generations on 29 April. In 2012, the focus is on bringing together pupils and older people to engage in a conversation about what it means to get older and how older and younger people can collaborate for a better life.  To coincide with this event, the EU Commission will host a competition to award the best project in each EU Member States and one overall European winner.

Through weekly art, music, drama and creative writing workshops, NUI Galway’s 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.

NUI Galway's Dr Mary Surlis is the Living Scenes Programme Director, and has been involved since its inception: “We are delighted to be the only Irish school-based programme of intergenerational learning to participate in this European competition.  Living Scenes is about adopting an open, inclusive and consultative approach to learning. It is currently in seven secondary schools throughout Ireland, and is embedded in the transition year in each school. To date 1,478 participants have taken part in our programme, the highest of any intergenerational learning initiative of its kind across Ireland, or even Europe.”

Dr Surlis added: "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.”

The intergenerational focus of the Living Scenes programme seeks to create a climate in which the participants will develop interpersonal skills, self-realisation, character building skills and cross-generational awareness and respect.

Psychologist, acclaimed writer, and most recent winner of Listowel Originals Short Story Award, Hedy Gibbons has been facilitating creative writing modules in the Living Scenes Programme for some years, and observes that:  “The overall beneficial outcomes of the Living Scenes Programme are not confined to the strictly educational.  Focusing on tasks that encourage creativity also seems to increase appreciation and understanding between age groups and cultures of their life experiences. Feedback from participants suggests enhanced psychological well-being through shared learning in a social educational setting. This surely will have positive spin- off in reducing isolation and increasing understanding in the context of generational and social exclusion.”

ENDS         

Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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