Intergenerational Friendships

K, 1, 2

Through multiple visits to a retirement home, or by inviting seniors to visit the classroom, students will learn effective communication, sensitivity to people of different generations and shared experiences while sharing ideas about the common good and stewardship.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 10-15 Minute Introduction Period (before each visit) Multiple 30-45 Minute Visits with Senior Community Members Reflection Time of 20-30 Minutes (after each visit)

The learner will:

  • discuss common experiences and memories with an older community member.
  • use effective communication skills.
  • state the impact of service learning through discussion, writing and drawing.
  • Read-aloud copy of Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
  • Writing materials: paper (or journals), pencils, crayons, etc.
  • Memory objects from previous lesson
Home Connection 

Invite grandparents of students or parents of teachers in the school to be part of the senior group. Make parents/guardians aware that they are welcomed to join in the meeting and sharing time. Students may also write letters to their parents explaining what they are doing and how they feel about it.

  • Fox, Mem. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. Kane/Miller, 1985. ISBN: 0916291049


  1. Anticipatory Set Hold up the book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. Remind the students of the different interesting senior community members that Wilfrid got to know. (Reread the book, if desired.) Tell the students that they are going to meet some new friends who are senior members of the community. They will be assigned to one or two person(s) along with another classmate or two. On this first visit, the students will be asked to share with their new friend(s) the memory item they brought from home.

    Teacher Note: If possible, the teacher should arrange in advance for each senior have bring memory item to share with the student. The teacher should also explain to the seniors that they will be receiving a letter or picture from their new friends after each visit, and suggest that a note of response would be appreciated, if possible.

  2. Prepare the students for the visit to raise their interest and level of sensitivity for people of a different generation. Ask about their prior experience: Do they spend time with grandparents? What are they like and what are their interests? How should they act when making a new friend?

  3. Brainstorm suitable topics of conversation for the first visit. The subsequent visits may or may not need prepared topics. (memories, family, recycling/trash issues, favorites, games, toys, books, the future)

  4. At the beginning of the visit the teacher will gather all of the participants—students and seniors—together to read aloud Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge.

  5. The students will meet with their new friends and take turns sharing and explaining their objects and respective memories.

  6. After each visit, meet with the students to discuss the experience. Invite the students to share with a partner: What did you learn from and about your new friends? What surprised you? What were you feeling? What were you thinking? Discuss with the students how this visit will affect the next visit. What might they do differently? What excites them about future visits?

  7. Ask each student to write a letter or draw a picture to send to their senior friends. The letters or pictures should express one thing they enjoyed about the visit or something that they learned during the visit.


Observe whether each student is actively participating in the visit and the sharing time before and after the visits. Assess (and re-teach, if necessary) whether students are listening respectfully to others who are sharing. Collect the student writings and assess both paper and discussion for thoughtfulness and detail. Assess the content of the student letters or pictures to their senior friends.

Cross Curriculum 

The students establish a friendship, over several visits and through writing, with a senior member of the community. These visits can be accomplished through field trips to a local retirement facility or by inviting senior members of the community to come to the classroom. Students continue to write letters to maintain the established friendship.

Read about the service-learning project called Big and Little Being Kind by Michigan students who were taught using this Intergenerational Friendships lesson to guide student learning and action.

Ms. Sandor is a director at an early childhood center in Michigan who said, "my motivation has been to promote kindness among young children--providing information and guiding children at a young age encourages lifelong caring and kindness."

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.
      2. Benchmark E.6 Describe the procedures and the importance of sensitivity to the people with whom students are working.
    2. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.