Music program unites generations

Students and Elders perform.

If there was ever any doubt of music's ability to profoundly change lives, an inspirational pilot program between Kempsey West Public School and the Booroongen Djugan Aged Care Facility would silence that for good.

Sing Out Loud Together has not only created special bonds between the students and residents, it has also reaped cross-curricular benefits for students.

Celebrating different generations

The program celebrated young and old and brought together people from different generations to learn about each other through music.

"Some of the Elders were lonely and not mixing so they would be really excited on Tuesday mornings when the children came.

An initiative of the Arts Health Institute (AHI), Sing Out Loud Together paired two students with an Elder 'buddy' from Booroongen, an Aboriginal nursing home. One day a week for eight weeks, Years 5 and 6 students from Kempsey West Public School travelled to the aged care facility to sing with the residents.

Each Tuesday the students met with their buddy, learned songs (such as Yellow Submarine, You are My Sunshine and The Happy Wanderer), the history of the music and also about the Elders' lives. In doing so students and Elders were transformed.

"There was wonderful respect between the children and the Elders," said AHI boss Dr Maggie Haertsch.

"Some of the Elders were lonely and not mixing so they would be really excited on Tuesday mornings when the children came.

Singing and sharing

"It was structured around singing but there were lots of questions about life history. There was a beautiful respect ... you can't learn empathy and compassion, yet spending time with their buddies brought this out in the students."

At the final concert at the school, students presented their project about their buddies and the era they grew up in.  The children also hosted the Elders at their school at the end of the program.

Kempsey West Public School principal Lyn Dockrill said not only had the pilot developed the social skills of the students, literacy underpinned the whole program.

"All students reflected on their visits to the aged care facility both in discussion and in written form," she said.

The students were equally impressed with the program.

Pilot a success

"Sing Out Loud taught me that it is cool to help older people," said student Kyrine Ennis while Jasmin Jones said, "It was an exciting experience. It taught me to appreciate the elderly."

Dr Haertsch said the Elders gained enormous benefit from the experience.

"We saw a really huge change in the Elders ... one woman who was very shy (and rarely spoke) gave a speech about the experience," said Dr Haertsch.

The pilot had been such a success, a second eight-week program was under way at Kempsey West and AHI intended to extend the program nationally.

"The new students are so excited to have a chance to meet the residents of Booroongen, as they have heard from the other students how great it was," said Natalie Mealing, the teacher coordinating the program at Kempsey West.

Photo by Kellie Trees.

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