Every year at Graland, Grade 7 students participate in the Memory Box Project. This interdisciplinary project links science, art, and service learning together to encourage students to form intergenerational connections with elders and loved ones. This year, seventh grade advisors Mrs. Kelly Gaudet, Mr. Steve Collins, and Mrs. Andrea Crane decided to expand the project’s previous focus on Alzheimer's in the aging community to building authentic relationships between generations. “The seventh grade learning has been geared more towards intergenerational connection with your elders,” Mr. Collins said. “Memory loss and dementia can be part of that, but now we want to emphasize establishing connections between younger people and older people.”
While students often choose their grandparents to honor with the Memory Boxes, they can also choose family friends, or aging members of the broader Graland community. While completing the project, students had the opportunity to work with A Little Help, an organization in Denver that coordinates with volunteers to provide essential services to aging community members still living in their own homes. “I think one of the most important things this project teaches is that, with our elder friends, if you don’t ask them questions, you’ll never know their history,” Mrs. Crane said. Mr. Collins agreed, adding, “In the process of developing those relationships, it’s really the stories that come out that are the most striking.”
Students first began working on this project in October of 2021, when they chose their honorees and began planning the design of their boxes. In Mr. Collins’ science class, the students also began learning about the human brain and how it can change with age. Later in the year, students gathered in the Gates Innovation Lab to construct their boxes. “When the kids could start creating their own boxes, they could fit the box to the personality and life of the person they are honoring,” Mrs. Crane said. “I really enjoyed that piece.” Some boxes were shaped like chapels to honor a particularly religious loved one, or family homes to represent shared memories. Once the boxes were constructed, students then brought photos of their loved one and memorabilia, such as knick-knacks or personal belongings, to display in the box.
Grade 7 students presented their final products to their Grade 6 peers, Grade 3 buddies, and faculty and staff members. The students also created digital versions of their Memory Boxes, including written biographies about their honoree and a video tour of their box. What a wonderful homage to the special elders in our lives! Great job, Grade 7.
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.