Intergenerational Community Based Learning

One need only google the term “intergenerational community based learning” and a slew of scholarly articles pop up. Many provide evidence that mixing generations during learning opportunities builds community relationships, offers relevance to the world outside of school walls and fosters rigor and persistence in students.

I had the opportunity to witness this when a group of Burlington High School students participated in StoryHackVT during the TechJam. StoryHackVT is a 24 hour intergenerational storytelling competition. Teams should not prep ahead of time and receive a theme at the beginning of the competition they must incorporate into a story told on three different digital platforms before the 24 hour mark. Each team then pitches their story live and voters have 12 hours to cast their ballots for their favorite stories.

A total of 15 teams participated and only two were high school teams. BHS team members joined StoryHackVT knowing they would compete against adult creative professionals who have more experience and resources. This did not deter them.

Muhammet Barut, team captain, had much to offer the group. He had experience with social media, Final Cut Pro and a passion for films. Lui Schmitt brought enthusiasm, experience with social media and knowledge of Final Cut Pro. Brooke Hossley wrote the script for the group and did the directing for the film. Christian Tuyishime, participant in the digital media program at the BHS Tech Center, acted for the film and offered comic relief when fatigue got to the group.

The group met for the first time as a team an hour before the event. They didn’t always agree on plot or how to shoot certain scenes, but they learned to compromise. I watched each student take risks and persevere through sleep deprivation, technology snafus and unexpected curveballs. They had to be flexible as a group around one another’s curfews, tests to prepare for and essays to write while other teams had full autonomy over their schedules.

It wasn’t always easy for me to step back and give the team the autonomy to make mistakes, but I’m glad I did. Teachers need to create a culture that allows for taking risks and failing as a mode to learning and improving. It’s what our graduates need to succeed in life: the space and time to make mistakes, take risks and persevere. Intergenerational community based learning opportunities offer this time and space.

For the BHS final product go to

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