Every month, we take a field trip to the VA hospital to visit with our Grandfriends. The VA hospital is about 20 minutes away from our school by car, so we get to ride the bus. This is always great fun!
Each session is planned and facilitated by a certified music therapist as part of the Musical Bridges program. Ms. Sheri, our Musical Bridges facilitator plans each session. One of the caregivers, Mr. Harold, usually greets us at the bus and walks us safely into the building. As we arrive, we march around the circle, greeting the Grandfriends.
We sing, dance and play a game or two, then have a little snack of juice and cookies. Mr. Harold draws a big face on the trash bag and calls it "Mr. Trashy" and comes around to collect the trash from our snack. "Mr. Trashy" has become one of the treasured parts of our visits---the kids can't wait for Mr. Harold to bring him out!
The children really enjoy the trip. Because most of the Grandfriends are wheelchair bound, they are seated throughout the sessions. The children may interact as much or as little as they like. Usually, we shake hands at the beginning and ending. We are working on practicing "random acts of kindness" this year, so we often make a picture or a card for the Grandfriends. Some of the children are a little shy on the first visit of the year, but by the end of each year, we are all old friends.
Ms. Sheri usually has a game of some sort planned. The parachute is one of the things we frequently use since when the Grandfriends are seated, they can manipulate the parachute as easily and at the same level as most of the kids.
We've played indoor baseball, had stick pony races and played balloon volleyball during our visits.
Ms. Sheri is quite talented and often plays the guitar while teaching us all new songs. It really brings a smile to my face when the children are on the playground or while playing, and I hear the kids singing some of the songs we've learned at the VA.
This intergenerational experience is priceless for the children and the Grandfriends. The children are learning about the differences in people and abilities and the Grandfriends are so happy to have visitors to interact with.
There is not much information on the internet available about this great program, but there is a book by Joan Shaw and Carna Manthey titled "Musical Bridges: Intergenerational Music Programs".
If you'd like some more info on intergenerational music programs, be sure to stop by "Music Sparks". Joann Jordan is a certified music therapist and offers some great ways to get older folks and children engaged with music!
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