The students and center participants: Adults, front row, l-r, Judy Fruitiger, Penny Breanneman, Giovanna Brunner, Emily Kerschner, Connie Danatzko, Donna Thompson, Bethany White, Ed Hornacek, Carol Loutsenhizer, and Dave Lohman. In back: Connie and Bruce Long. Photograph courtesy of Curt Werner.

Technology bridges older adults, elementary-school children

Schuylkill Haven & Dillsburg, Pa. Friday June 21, 2013

On June 3, 2013, 12 members of the Schuylkill Haven Senior Community Center took a trip to visit the third-grade class at South Mountain Elementary School near Dillsburg. We have been Skyping with this class throughout their school year. It was an exciting day for us—we would finally meet the students with whom we had shared so much throughout the year!

We were greeted at the school by their teacher, Donna Nebistinsky, and the principal, Jeff Clifton. We were served a delicious luncheon prepared by several class mothers. In fact, the children were not aware that we were visiting—it was to be a special surprise to them.

They were very surprised and excited to finally meet us in person.

After our lunch, the students were brought to us. They were very surprised and excited to finally meet us in person. We spent time in their computer lab, shared memorable things from our lives and school days that we had brought along with us. We had old school photos, yearbooks, our third-grade report cards, and toys.

We also toured the school and visited the outdoor garden project the students tend. Before leaving we enjoyed  a special cake with our students.

It was a wonderful day for all those involved and we thank Diakon for making it happen!

By Emily Kerschner
Schuylkill Haven Senior Community Center member and Skype project coordinator

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In a separate article for a local newspaper, Teacher Donna Nebistinsky also wrote about the visit—and added the following comments to what her mother, Emily Kerscher, had written:

... When the students returned from the cafeteria to find their friends enjoying a luncheon in the classroom, they were overwhelmed.

The students took their friends to the computer lab to create memory photo pages, gave them a building tour, and showed them the veggie gardens they had planted earlier in the year.

The highlight, though, was spending time just visiting with each of the adults while they shared photos, toys, collections and other memories from their own childhoods. The group held their final Skype visit on the last day of school.

The program benefitted both groups, but has definitely helped the students to see that “old people aren’t boring after all”!

Emily Kerschner shows photographs from her school days with students with whom she Skyped.

Emily Kerschner shows photographs from her school days with students with whom she Skyped.


Participants share the following comments from the day ...

Jeff Clifton, principal:
“We have taken our class on many field trips, but today the field trip came to our school!”

Connie D., center member:
“A great trip letting us see how many people we have touched. We made a difference and are valued and appreciated.”

Ed H. and Dave L.:
“How knowledgeable the children are and how their education differs from ours. Well-behaved pupils, nice teacher, excellent staff.”

Bruce & Connie L.:
“Enjoyed the computer lab, meeting the pupils, enjoyed the bus ride.”

Carol L.:
“Really good class of students, very enjoyable day.”

Judy F.:
“Computer lab was amazing; the garden was beautiful.”

Donna T.:
“Very nice day, enjoyed meeting everyone!”

Penny B.:
“Pupils enjoyed seeing my old photos and making comic book art with me on the computer.”

Giovanna B.:
“Pupils were very interested in the things I brought along from Italy, the money, my passport and the steamship passenger list from my emigration to the USA

Emily K.:
“An awesome day, enjoyed meeting these pupils and everyone who helped to make a special day for us. Even though there was a generation gap, we touched their lives and they touched ours. Perhaps we can continue this in the future.”

“Thank you Diakon from all of us!”

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