Children and Seniors Make Snowmen and Memories

No sooner had two dozen first-graders arrived at a Lowell assisted-living facility than Albertine Schreur began telling a few of them about her life long ago.

“I went to school in Grand Rapids,” Schreur, 96, told the girls sitting near her. “I can’t remember my teacher’s name, but it was good. It was really good.”Student Rylie Elsie, right, traces Marcia Roth’s hand during a visit to Fountain View of Lowell

She might also have been referring to her morning, when students from Lowell’s Murray Lake Elementary made their monthly visit to Fountain View of Lowell. First-grade classes have been visiting the retirement home’s residents for several years, to play games, do crafts and learn from their elders.

For the residents, who include Alzheimer’s patients, the children’s happy voices and smiles bring fun and floods of warm memories.

“You look at their little faces and wonder what’s down the road for them,” said Albertine Schreur. “They say exactly what they think and feel. It’s a real treat.”

Murray Lake’s three first-grade teachers rotate visits with their classes, which celebrated Halloween and Christmas activities with the residents. They all will come together for the year’s final visit May 29.

Pupils learn history and social interaction from the experience, said teacher Denise Washburn.

“A lot of these folks are much older than (the students’) grandparents, so for them it’s a really good opportunity to learn more about diversity,” Washburn said. “They’re learning some valuable lessons on character and ways to act.”

The visits’ busing costs are funded by outside grants, including Lowell Community Wellness this year. The school is looking for a sponsor for 2014-15.

Teacher Denise Washburn shows off a snowman made of paper hands cut out by students and seniorsBringing Snowmen Indoors

In a recent hour-long visit, Washburn’s class brought a bit of winter inside on a bitterly cold day. Students and residents traced outlines of their hands and cut them out to form a paper snowman.

Student Cadan Cone helped Marian Anible complete her part of the project.

“We’re going to make a snowman here,” Cadan said. “You’ve got to cut this hand out.”

“We’re having a good time,” Anible told a visitor. “He’s such a nice young man.”

“I like meeting new friends,” Cadan saidof Marian.

Students also drew snowmen on which they pasted photos of themselves, and played a game of trying to match face-down pictures. Alice Nanninga gave student Ralph Hook a smug smile when she won.Fountain View of Lowell resident Albertine Schreur hugs Lowell first-grader Mya Richmond goodbye

“You’re better ‘n me,” Ralph said, and then had another go at the game.

Volunteer Rose Hildenbrand-Thomet read a story while everyone munched snickerdoodles, then it was time for the students to go. Albertine Schreur warmly hugged Mya Richmond and other students goodbye.

“They’re so vibrant,” she said after the children left. “They inspire me.”

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Fountain View of Lowell

Murray Lake Elementary School

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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