Fall 2019

Fostering Communication and Self- Awareness through Interviews: Biography project at Mill Cove Nursing Home

Students record an interview at Mill Cove Nursing Home. Photo credit: Michelle Duncan

Grade nine students at Cambridge Narrows School are learning and practicing their English curriculum with the help of the local nursing home. Their teacher, Heather Bailey decided to utilize funding from iHub promoting student experiences with elderly care on a project that would benefit both the students and the seniors – writing and printing biographies based on the seniors’ lives.

With the assistance of LifeBio software, designed to assist individuals with health and/or memory issues, students have been coached on how to perform interviews by asking questions and thinking quickly to follow conversational leads.

Students are paired up and meet with a senior once a week to record an interview. While recording, students can focus explicitly on listening, and cultivating conversations, and then review the audio file in their next class to better organize the information.

Students were somewhat timid upon their first interaction with their senior, however conversation quickly developed. Some students were forced to practicing patience and respect while listening to long stories, while others were learning to think quickly and ask impromptu questions as they arose.

On the bus ride back to the school students were eager to share the stories they heard, and excited at the connections they made to their partnered senior. Many had neighbors, friends and family members in common, solidifying a sense of community in the area.

A Mill Cove resident shares past experiences with students. Photo credit: Michelle Duncan

The experiential approach to learning through communication, collaboration, and self-awareness is the key facet to this project. Not only are students taking responsibility for their work as individuals, they are creating connections outside of the classroom that facilitate their overall social growth as a constructive member of their community. Their projects enable them to master key outcomes, but have the fundamental importance of being created as a gift to their partnered senior. Attaching purpose to a project is all the more motivating for students to engage and self-direct.

With personal experiences developing within Mill Cove, students are considering geriatric care and practical nursing as viable and rewarding career options. The nursing home is a vital part of Mill Cove and Cambridge Narrow’s community, offering employment to many residents. As students build connections with the facility and its residents, they are being exposed to career opportunities and building foundations of involvement within their community.

With Ms. Bailey’s assignment underway, two other teachers at her school are also involved with projects at the Nursing home through iHub funding. Further connections are being established for next year as teachers see the positive impact the Mill Cove visits have on students.

Developing skills in communication, empathy, and respect is at the forefront of this project, but it is strongly supported by student engagement and motivation to succeed. When there is context put to a project and a sense of purpose and meaning in one’s community, self-awareness and compassion flourish.

Michelle Duncan is the Communications and Operations Manager for iHub Learning Inc., a New Brunswick based not-for-profit dedicated to supporting and researching innovation in education. As an avid learner with degrees in both Engineering and Applied Arts, she advocates the value of experiential, personalized, entrepreneurial, problem and project-based approaches to learning.

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