Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2013 Issue »

    Learning by Heart

    Intergenerational Theater Arts

    MARSHA GILDIN, ROSE O. BINDER, IRVING CHIPKIN, VERA FOGELMAN, BILLIE GOLDSTEIN, and ALBERT LIPPEL
    “The kids are here. Let’s get started,” Big Al’s voice booms.
    “Thanks for getting my favorite blue chair,” says Rose to Jasroop.
    “Where’s Irving and Doris?” Michael and Kevin call out. “Can we go get them?”
    “Welcome back, everyone. It’s good to be together,” croons Marsha, our facilitator.

    We are a lucky group of older adults, ranging in age from sixty to ninety-two, who participate in an intergenerational arts program at our local senior center in Flushing, Queens, one of New York City’s most culturally diverse communities. In our living history theater program, run by Elders Share the Arts (ESTA) and facilitated by ESTA teaching artist Marsha Gildin, we are joined weekly by fifth graders from PS 24, a public elementary school located around the corner. Some of our senior members joined just last year, while others have been involved for more than a decade. Our relationship with the children is very special and mutually nourishing. ESTA guides us in sessions based on sharing stories from life experience and in transforming memories into art. We explore our ideas through theater exercises and devise an original piece rooted in what we have learned from one another. Rehearsals are an ensemble learning process. With forty-five people on stage during our performances at the senior center and school, the performance experience is always challenging, surprising, and well received. We connect strongly with the children during the program year, and our goodbyes are tinged with sadness, for we have grown close in our shared art making. This year our theme focused on the power of music in our lives.


    This is an excerpt from Expanding Our Vision for the Arts in Education.

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    Marsha Gildin, a master teaching artist with Elders Share the Arts (ESTA), has taught drama, puppetry, and intergenerational arts to students of all ages and abilities in school- and community-based settings since 1974. Her passion for connecting generations, cultures, and communities through the art of storytelling and performance has been far-reaching. She has led and developed ESTA’s intergenerational living history theater program in Flushing, Queens, since 1997, cofacilitated national training through the Shin Kong Life Foundation in Taipei, and was the recipient of ESTA’s 2012 Meritorious Service Award for creativity, leadership, and outstanding contributions to the lives of older people. In 2009 Gildin traveled to the tsunami-affected region of Tamil Nadu, India, to evaluate the impact of a four-year psychosocial, intergenerational, arts-infused community regeneration curriculum designed and implemented by the Mumbai-based Dreamcatchers Foundation. She served on the faculty at CUNY Queens College from 1998 to 2001 in the Graduate School of Education, where she offered courses in arts-infused curriculum design and multiple intelligences learning theory.

    Rose O. Binder, who turned ninety in January 2013, has long been active in senior centers as a volunteer and as a knitting instructor. In order to keep the art of tatting alive, she designed a complicated tatting pattern and was featured in the September 1996 issue of Flower and Garden Magazine. At the age of fifty, while working full time and raising her family, she put herself through college by attending classes three nights a week.

    Irving Chipkin, who is amazed at having lived longer than his parents did and that his oldest daughter is now a great-grandmother, believes in the positive power of intergenerational programs to activate good attitudes across ages and to aid children in becoming decent, thoughtful adults. Irving chooses to remain fully involved in the mischief of life—together with his wife of seventy years, their five children, ten grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and two great-great grands, all of whom are good friends with one another, which gives him great pleasure.

    Vera Fogelman comes from a family of volunteers. During World War II, she, along with her mother and sisters worked as Grey Ladies in VA hospitals, while her grandmother knit hats and scarves for soldiers. Vera continued the tradition by knitting lap blankets in her volunteer role with the National Council of Jewish Women and the Jewish War Veterans, and as a senior center member she coordinated knitting brigades for annual holiday gift-giving at local hospitals for sick children. Vera entered the workforce during World War II as a civilian employee in the army’s quartermaster department, and she later served for many years as a college office administrator at La Guardia Community College and at Queens College in New York City. She became a college graduate, following in her children’s footsteps, by taking courses while working at La Guardia Community College.

    Billie Goldstein was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1930, the middle of three sisters. In 1951 she married her husband, Bernie, and they were together until 2003. For twenty-seven years, she worked as an administrative assistant for the Sherle Wagner Corporation, producers of custom-made, high-end bathroom fixtures. Billie enjoys the hours she spends with the children and her fellow senior center members. She keeps growing.

    Albert Lippel joined the workforce as a member of the metal spinners union, served as his union’s business manager, owned and operated a Mr. Softie Ice Cream truck, and retired from working life as a member of the facility maintenance team at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Al remains very active and committed to community volunteerism and helping people. He works as a volunteer at St. Mary’s Hospital, SelfHelp Rosenthal/Prince St. Public Advisory Committee, the Flushing Democratic Club, and the Knights of Pythias, where he was recently honored as recipient of the Golden Spur. In addition, he still has time to take care of his grandchildren and their five dogs.
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    Spring 2013 Issue

    Abstracts

    Foreword: Exploding Parameters and an Expanded Embrace
    A Proposal for the Arts in Education in the Twenty-First Century
    STEVE SEIDEL
    Editors’ Introduction
    Expanding Our Vision for the Arts in Education
    Edward P. Clapp and Laura A. Edwards
    Expanding Our “Frames” of Mind for Education and the Arts
    JENNIFER S. GROFF
    Expanding Our Vision of Museum Education and Perception
    An Analysis of Three Case Studies of Independent Blind Arts Learners
    SIMON HAYHOE
    Universal Design for Learning and the Arts
    Don Glass, Anne Meyer, and David H. Rose
    Graphica
    Comics Arts-Based Educational Research
    STEPHANIE JONES AND JAMES F. WOGLOM
    Why the Arts Don’t Do Anything
    Toward a New Vision for Cultural Production in Education
    RUBEN A. GAZTAMBIDE-FERNANDEZ
    Afterword: The Turning of the Leaves
    Expanding Our Vision for the Arts in Education
    MAXINE GREENE

    Book Notes

    The Learner-Directed Classroom
    Diane B. Jaquith and Nan E. Hathaway (Editors)

    Critical Aesthetic Pedagogy
    Yolanda Medina

    Hip Hop Genius
    Sam Seidel

    Design and Thinking
    Mu-Ming Tsai (Director)

    Changing Lives
    Tricia Tunstall

    Art Education Beyond the Classroom
    Alice Wexler (Editor)