Much of the Grade 7 year is devoted to a multidisciplinary unit on Alzheimer’s disease, a comprehensive lesson that includes science, literacy, art, math and service-learning. As a component of the culminating event in February, an evening of Alzheimer’s awareness, students select an older family member or family friend to study and create a “memory box” honoring the person’s life and achievements.
This year, instead of store-bought shadow boxes, students are designing and building their own unique containers to showcase their honorees’ mementos. After drawing out their ideas, seventh-graders worked in the Gates lab on the second step in the process -- creating a prototype out of cardboard and masking tape. The prototype is to scale, allowing students to accurately measure and cut wood pieces that will be assembled in the final stage of the assignment. "Creating unique memory boxes has allowed the students to dive deeper into the objects representing their honorees and has created a greater sense of empathy along the way," shared Jorge Chavez, innovation specialist.
Compassion for the elderly is a trait seventh graders at Graland have been developing since 2011. That was the first year they began building relationships with older residents at Sunrise Senior Center, where they celebrate holidays, learn more about each other’s lives, have sing-alongs and eat cookies together as part of their service-learning project.
Along the way, students are exposed to the memory loss issues affecting the elderly, such as Alzheimer's disease, a condition affecting 5 million people in the United States. The Alzheimer’s unit has evolved into a signature program for Graland and garnered national attention when it was featured on National Public Radio in 2016.
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.