Senior Engagement Program unites generations through gardening

September 21, 2011

Robin Massey gives a gardening presentation
during the Senior Engagement program at P3A
DETROIT – Gardening by nature is the science of making things grow, but in the context of EMEAC’s Greener Schools Senior Engagement Program, it is having the affect of shrinking the generational gap in Detroit. The Senior Engagement Program’s Gardening Angels are now entering its second year of existence, but if the success of its first year is any indication there is a harvest of intergenerational connections ahead for the students of Palmer Park Preparatory Academy and the senior gardeners from Hannan House.

“That’s been working out really well because the Hannan seniors have a gardening club and they have a garden,” said Senior Engagement Program Coordinator Priscilla Dziubek. “They also have transportation, so they’ve been coming over once a month to Palmer Park Preparatory Academy where we have a group of sixth graders that are working with them throughout the year.”

The program has consisted of P3A students meeting with the seniors to share oral histories of their gardening knowledge and experience, as well as hands-on gardening lessons. The hope is to transfer and preserve that knowledge and experience through recorded conversations with the youth. The students will then work with EMEAC’s ReMedia program to turn those oral histories into a special documentary or short film.

“We are doing oral histories using flip cameras. The students are asking the seniors about their lives from the time that they were kids,” Dziubek said. “They are asking them what their gardening experiences were and what it was like in the city of Detroit for them as young people.

“EMEAC's programs are now all meeting to determine how we can best leverage our capabilities and to figure out how we can best integrate all of our youth programs going forward. The Gardening Angels are definitely a part of that.”

Greener Schools staff with seniors 
The seniors in turn are volunteering their time to help students at P3A and Detroit Institute of Technology learn the how-to's of gardening. Rachel Jacobsen of Hannan Foundation, has been instrumental in bringing seniors from the Hannan Gardening Club, the residents of St. Martha’s Presbyterian Village of Michigan and the local communities to work with the students of both schools.

We have some sessions where the seniors give the lessons. We’ve had some sessions where the students give the lessons,” she said. “We've recorded quite a bit of the histories and we’ve been doing quite a bit of learning also.”