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In the Classroom, Young and Old Learn from Each Other

Maura Wolf, a resident at Noble Horizons retirement community, was over the moon when she learned she got a 100 on a weekly vocabulary quiz she took in class taught by Instructor in English Carita Gardiner P'17,20. The student sitting next to her was gobsmacked. “She said to me, ‘You mean you knew all those words!,’” beamed Wolf. 

Wolf was one of five residents from Noble Horizons in Salisbury to participate in Gardiner’s AP Literature and Composition class this fall as part of a pilot program.

Caroline Kenny-Burchfield '77, P'08,'10, director of community relations at Noble and coordinator of volunteer programs at Hotchkiss, teamed up with Gardiner to launch the program.

Keith Moon P'13,'16, instructor in English and history, has led a Russian literature discussion at Noble Horizons each spring since 2012. Last summer, Gardiner decided to teach a literature class there herself.

"The residents really enjoyed it," said Kenny-Burchfield. “And I always had this idea in the back of my mind that it would be cool to bring the two groups together.”  

Gardiner agreed. “I thought that it would be great for my "under 21s" to hear the ideas, insights, and enthusiasm of my "over 21s". As I said to my Hotchkiss students before we added the over 21s, 'It's a win-win for you. Either you'll love having them in class and will learn a lot from them, in which case you win, OR you will hate having them there and can write a great college essay about the experience. That's a different kind of win.' So far, I'm pretty sure everyone involved is having the first kind of experience.”

Seniors shared their wisdom, insight, and knowledge with students during discussions about My Name is Asher Lev, a novel by Chaim Potok about a Hasidic Jewish boy growing up in New York City.

Upper Mid Emily Heimer was skeptical about how the program would work at first, but she quickly realized that the seniors had much to offer. “They provide a different perspective; plus, they can draw from their own experience during the time that the novel took place, which was mostly in the 1950s – and they are super sweet.”

Gardiner’s class urged her to have the seniors come back for another novel in the spring. Based on positive feedback, Burchfield is hoping to offer it to other departments. As for the seniors, they are all in. “I just absolutely love it,” said Wolf.



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