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First-grade service learning project brings generations together


Marion Darby sat at a table with a group of energetic Murray Lake first-graders and watched as they took turns trying to balance plastic penguins on a wobbly berg of plastic “ice.”

“I’ll probably have to take a nap pretty soon,” said the resident of Fountain View Assisted Living with a laugh.

First-grader Avery Newell squirmed from her place on Darby’s lap to place her penguin on the game.

“We had such a good time together the first time she was here, I just kind of look for her now,” Darby said.

At the next table over, resident Marcia Roth chose another playing card and had just decided which one to put down when she noticed that the group of first-graders she was playing with had already moved on.

“‘Anything goes’ is right,” Roth said with a giggle.

Murray Lake has been bringing first-graders to Fountain View since 2008, said teacher Denise Washburn.

A grant from Greater Lowell Community Wellness helps pay for monthly bus trips to and from the school, as well as for supplies for projects students and residents can do together, such as planting flowers, trick-or-treating and art projects. Three times a year, all three first-grade classes visit at once.

“I started this project because it brought two things together that are near and dear to my heart: the elderly and children,” Washburn said. “The elderly and children are so very important in connecting our past to our present, and creating our future.”

Resident Marcia Roth considers her hand as first-graders Deidra Uzarski and Ruby Torline wait their turns

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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