He was waiting for the right opportunity mixed with just the right group of students. This school year, he got it. Jim Olsen, an advanced academics teacher at Coates Elementary, has always wanted to teach students how to write biographies through investigative journalism.
The group is Jim's sixth grade advanced academics class. Their subjects are guests at the Herndon Senior Center. Separated by decades, could these students make a connection through the generations?
In late November, Jim's students boarded buses to the center where a room full of friendly seniors greeted the children. At first, the students were nervous and shy. But a series of carefully crafted questions opened the door, and began a journey of learning about a lifetime so different from today. A childhood without computers? Movies that only cost ten cents? Students and subjects learned that despite their differences, they had a lot in common. Things like sharing a bedroom with your brother and sister, even when you don't want to, bridge the generations.
After the students completed their inquiries, they returned to Coates Elementary to begin writing the biographies. They also created PowerPoint presentations to tell these life stories. The students shared those presentations with the seniors during a return trip to the center in early December.
The experience introduced students to people of different ages and different cultures that they otherwise never would have met. For seniors, it was a chance to meet the future and have faith in the next generation's respect for those who came before.