Serving Breakfast to Seniors Teaches Kids a Thing or Two

A group of Godfrey-Lee eighth-graders got a new perspective of older people when they cooked up a pancake breakfast at the Wyoming Senior Citizen Center.

“Students usually have a hard time picturing older generations as having once been young like themselves,” says Chris DeMaagd, who helped organize the meal earlier this month for her Language and Arts students and teacher Mike Donovan’s Social Studies students.

“Oh my gosh, I want to go back,” said student Monica Barrios. “All the old people were so cool and adorable ’cause of their wrinkles.”

Eighth-graders at Godfrey-Lee have been serving up pancake breakfasts to senior citizens at the center two to three times a year for about 10 years, according to DeMaagd. She sees it as a great opportunity for two different generations to learn more about each other. “There are often misconceptions on each side, and when they have a chance to interact, they see that the other side isn’t necessarily what they assumed it was,” she said.Keysin Garcia helps serve the breakfast

Students stirred up pancake mix and cooked sausage, served the meal, and prepared place settings and table centerpieces. Besides these tasks, they also were required to interview the senior citizens.

“They all had great stories about their life,” said student Karen Lopez. “I learned to treat elders with more respect knowing about all the things they have been through.”

Molly Renemap, director of the Wyoming Senior Center, said seniors always comment on how nice, friendly and well-mannered the students are. The students also do other activities with the center, which is right around the corner from the school, and that’s a good partnership to have in place between the two, she said. “They get to know the kids in the community, and the kids get to know them,” Renemap said.

Once they find it’s not that scary, students come back enthused, DeMaagd said. “The first group often begs to go the next time,” she said.

Serving the breakfast and doing the interviews is a confidence-building event for some students, she added. “The best part of the day for me is seeing students thrive who often struggle in a variety of ways in a traditional classroom setting,” DeMaagd said.

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Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio

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