Picture: Lachlan Bence
A relationship between Woodman's Hill Secondary College VCAL students and Ballarat Health Services aged care residents has provided an opportunity for hands on learning while bridging a generational gap.
BRIDGING A GAP: Woodmans Hill Secondary College students Kaylah Tucker, Year 11 and Alice Ashley, Year 12, play checkers with Geoffrey Cutter Centre resident Terry McGarry.
The school's VCAL students have been visiting aged care residents, including those with dementia, at the Geoffrey Cutter Centre once a week as part of their literacy class.
The students have also spent time at school in their personal development skills class creating activities to be used during their visits.
When The Courier visited during a session at the Geoffrey Cutter Centre on Monday, students were in groups with residents playing checkers, helping them with an activity like trivia or bingo while others set up a steering wheel and accelerator pedal to help a resident drive a car in a computer game.
The residents are stimulated by the students and it is uplifting for them that the students want to spend time with them.
Margo Cunningham, Geoffrey Cutter Centre Woodmans Hill VCAL coordinator and VCAL Literacy teacher Patrick Cleary said the students spent time getting to know the residents in an effort to create activities that matched with what the resident likes to do.
"The relationship we have established is a win for everyone - students and residents enjoy the time together, and it is a really unique, meaningful and rewarding way for students to get a 'tick' for their oracy outcomes for VCAL Literacy," he said.
"Traditionally this is done in the classroom with oral presentations and powerpoints, however through this program teachers observe student interactions with residents and staff and oracy competencies can be demonstrated." The activities students created have been based on a Montessori approach, a method of education based on hands on learning that engages cognitive function, fine and gross motor skills, sensory engagement and a sense of achievement.
The approach was designed for young children but more recently the value of using the approach in working with the aged and those with dementia has gained traction. Geoffrey Cutter Centre Acting Nurse Unit Manager Margo Cunningham said the students were a breath of fresh air for the residents and provided a link to the world outside the Geoffrey Cutter Centre. "When the students spend time one on one with the residents, it gives the residents a sense of self-worth and purpose," she said. "The residents are stimulated by the students and it is uplifting for them that the students want to spend time with them."
VCAL Personal Development Skills teacher Tegan Crosbie said a flow on affect of the project was the opportunity to show empathy and understanding of elderly members of the community.
Year 11 VCAL student Kai Trafford said he enjoyed spending time with the elders and hearing their stories while they played card games together.
Year 12 VCAL student Fiona Browne said visiting the Geoffrey Cutter Centre had changed her perspective of aged care facilities.
"The VCAL group has gained an understanding of the challenges a resident with dementia may face," she said. "We have gained a sense of achievement seeing these residents light up when we arrive and it feels rewarding when we see them involved in activities."
The collaboration between Woodmans Hill VCAL students and the Geoffrey Cutter Centre has been running for more than three years.