Erickson earns A+ for education

Engaged minds at Riderwood, Greenspring, Ashby Ponds stoke their love of learning

Created date

August 1st, 2009
People never outgrow their need for knowledge. Each of Erickson s three Washington, D.C.-area communities Riderwood, Greenspring, and Ashby Ponds takes full advantage of being located near the nation s capital to tap into a wealth of knowledge and make it available to residents. This is the most intellectually stimulating environment I have ever been in, says Riderwood resident Owen Compton. I live with people who possess knowledge on so many different topics. I have friends who worked with NASA, the State Department, were members of Phi Beta Kappa, and who have traveled the world. Seasoned Adults Growing Educationally Providing intellectual stimulation to the many community members who wish to continue their quest for knowledge, Riderwood offers a continuing education program through Prince George s Community College (PGCC). In what is known as the SAGE program Seasoned Adults Growing Educationally a wide variety of noncredit college courses are offered on the Riderwood campus. Popular class topics include art, history, literature, computers, environmental science, music history, and law. These programs allow our residents to continue learning and challenging their minds, says Riderwood community member and SAGE computer teacher Trudy Downs. It gives us an opportunity to learn something new that we may never have tried during our working careers because of lack of time. Now we are free to explore new interests. Downs also chairs Riderwood s Continuing Education Committee. Our goal is to bring to campus classes that will interest our residents in continued learning, classes that will stimulate and teach them something new and allow for their self-expression, she says. Riderwood offers three trimesters of classes throughout the year and provides community members with an extensive course catalog complete with course descriptions, times, and expectations. In addition to the SAGE classes through PGCC, Riderwood off ers courses in cooperation with Montgomery College and the University of Maryland. I love bringing educational opportunities to our campus because such great health comes from exercising our minds and bodies, says Riderwood Community Resources Manager Karen Spicer. The Greek word (skhole) from which we get school also means leisure. Those who are free from work can grow their minds. It is a delight to contribute vital educational opportunities to the active retirement lifestyle our residents enjoy. Elderhostel educational programs Last fall, Spicer organized a new learning adventure at Riderwood known as Elderhostel, offered in cooperation with the American Foreign Service Association. Elderhostel is the world s leader in not-forprofi t educational travel. Dubbed a Day of Discovery, this four-program event hosted speakers from the American Foreign Service Association s World Issues Forum, a corps of distinguished foreign aff airs veterans, including many former ambassadors, all still actively involved in international aff airs as authors, teachers, business leaders, and consultants. Programs included Islam and Iraq, China and Russia, A Close Look at Africa, and The Foreign Service and Foreign Policy. Lifetime Learning Institute Greenspring also off ers a wide variety of programs to its many community members interested in learning, including art classes offered by the Fairfax County adult education program; course off erings from the Lifetime Learning Institute of Northern Virginia; and a substantial DVD learning program known as Great Courses that provides teaching from many top professors across the country on a large range of topics. Greenspring s education program is in the process of graduating, says Community Resources Coordinator Jenna Whitt. We are moving on to the next level. Our educational opportunities provide an opportunity for community members to socialize with others of similar interests while learning and enabling resident teachers and leaders to continue using their gifts. At the heart of Greenspring s learning opportunities are resident-driven classes in computers, religion, and art. Resident Ann Jaekle serves as president of the computer club, one of the campus most popular learning clubs. I love to help residents learn to use the computer for things that are important to them, Jaekle says. It is very satisfying when someone who was stuck works through the problem and enjoys doing email, buying a new computer, getting better service to the Internet, and using a computer to open up more possibilities for successful living in a technological society. It s like the Erickson motto, says Buck Simpson, a computer club board member. Our club is others helping others, plus off ering new ideas. I believe in our mission statement, says Jaekle. We seek to make a positive contribution to Greenspring by making the benefits of computer technology accessible to those who want it. Growing in knowledge, community Even Ashby Ponds, which opened less than one year ago, off ers a wide spectrum of educational opportunities. Most notably, Ashby Ponds works with Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, affi liated with George Mason University (GMU). Currently, community members travel to GMU satellite campuses to take the classes, but Community Resources Manager Joseph Barrows is working on the logistics of bringing classes to Ashby Ponds. I believe lifelong learning is important because it shows community members that it is never too late to learn something new, Barrows says. We all have the capacity to continue learning and broadening our scope, regardless of age. Barrows also recently formed the Resident Lifelong Learning Committee, designed to assist in the identifi cation of learning opportunities. Like the Continuing Education Committee at Riderwood, the group solicits resident volunteers interested in teaching classes. We currently have conversational Spanish and French groups that meet to both converse and teach those who wish to learn these languages, Barrows says. Plans are currently underway for an educational series called Exploring Faith, in which residents will research, watch documentaries, and discuss issues on Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. It s our hope that as our community grows and matures, we will have even greater opportunities for learning, says Barrows. Our residents understand that through learning comes a greater knowledge. Through knowledge, we become more in tune with one another and more aware of our fellow human beings, which will ultimately lead to a wonderful embracing and inclusiveness of diversity.