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Advanced grandparenting

Tallgrass Creek in second year of being Grandfriends

Created date

February 22nd, 2010

Betsy Heimke s grandchildren are grown and her great-grandchildren live in Texas, but she routinely enjoys fun and games with youngsters. That s because Heimke is a Grandfriend, one of about twenty people who live at Tallgrass Creek that enthusiastically participate in an enrichment program with second and third graders from nearby Blue River Elementary School. [caption id="attachment_8226" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Grandfriends Betty Hund from Tallgrass Creek and Grace from Blue River Elementary work on holiday wreaths created from tracings of their hands. (Photo by Jill Cline)"]Tallgrass Creek s community resources coordinator, brought it to campus. The students and residents both benefit from the interaction, she says. The goal is to foster intergenerational relationships, especially among kids who may not have grandparents in the area. That encompasses lots of kids, according to Mary Foote, one of the teachers who collaborates with Cline on program activities. Our students love it, Foote says. They re learning so much about life in the past, and the Grandfriends are learning what it s like to be a second or third grader and the expectations [today].

Grandfriend syllabus

A Halloween event kicks off the year s programs. The kids arrive atTallgrass Creek in costume to sing songs, go on a scavenger hunt, and trick-or-treat through the community s Audubon Clubhouse. Last Halloween, they also interviewed their Grandfriends to get better acquainted and were amazed at what they learned. Foote recalls one comment in particular. Clearly impressed, a student told her, Did you know that my Grandfriend used to ride a horse to school? I cannot offer the kids the real life experience of fighting in a war, going by horse to school, or even what the community was like 30 to 50 years ago, Foote says. That s where Grandfriends like Don Alexander come in. Alexander, who was in the Air Force and served in the Korean War, was one of 19 veterans fromTallgrass Creek honored last November at Blue River Elementary s all-school assembly on Veterans Day. It was the students idea to invite the veterans. Following the assembly, We broke into groups, went in classrooms, and the veterans told a little about their military service, Alexander says, mainly what branch they were in, when they served, and where they were stationed. His wife, Elaine, is a Grandfriend, too. They participate, in part, because most of their grandchildren live in other states. The Alexanders, who raised four sons, are Grandfriends to three little girls. The kids are so lively, Mrs. Alexander says. It s been fun to have two of them for two years. We ve gotten to know them better and watch them grow. Involved since the program started, We can connect with young people for a while, and that s good, says Mr. Alexander. The girls seem so glad to see us that it makes us glad to see them.

Spring semester

The Grandfriends and students will get together six times this school year, including an end-of-the-year picnic and tour at the school. In December, the Grandfriends made holiday wreaths to hang on one another s doors. We traced our hands on green construction paper, cut them out, then curled each finger with a pencil and glued the hands onto a paper plate to create a wreath, Heimke explains. That was so much fun! I d never done that before. Last month, they made thinking of you valentines that the Grandfriends delivered to a veterans hospital. When the kids visit for their next get-together, Heimke says they ll come in beaming, all smiley mouths and bright eyes just great little kids. And they ll sing their class song, S Club 7 s Reach for the Stars, a bouncy tune about friendship and never giving up on your goals. The kids perform it with actions that delight their Grandfriends. They re very dramatic, Heimke says. They raise their arms and wiggle their feet and jump up and down. It s so much fun to watch. She thinks the Grandfriends should learn it, too.