Won't you be my neighbor?
Posted 09/18/2014 02:00PM

Durham Academy Preschoolers are taking a cue from Mister Rogers and getting to know their neighbors — 120 of them, to be exact — at the Emerald Pond senior living community on Pickett Road. It’s part of a new long-term partnership designed to bring joy to the lives of Emerald Pond's senior residents through relationships built with DA’s youngest students over the span of the upcoming school year.

“We wanted to create an age-appropriate community service project that could be an ongoing relationship that we could build on,” said Interim Preschool Director Sheri-lyn Carrow.

Carrow’s initial call to Emerald Pond last month proved to be perfect timing, as the center had just brought Bonnie Gay on board as its enrichment coordinator. By the time Carrow and Gay finished their initial conversation, they realized the exchange possibilities were endless. Their initial list includes Preschoolers trick-or-treating at Emerald Pond with their families, Emerald Pond’s bell choir performing at DA, and potentially a Skype session between Preschoolers and Emerald Pond’s resident centenarian, Phoebe, on the 100th day of school!

DA kicked off the partnership Wednesday morning with a visit from Gay and a question-and-answer session led by Carrow to introduce Emerald Pond and their new neighbors.

“What is a neighbor?” Carrow asked.

"It’s a person you know that lives near you that’s not a stranger," one Preschooler answered confidently.

“What kinds of things do you do for your neighbor?” she asked.

"Bake cookies!" several students replied.

To give the Preschoolers some context, Gay read Oma’s Quilt — a heartfelt story about a grandmother’s move to a retirement community told from a young girl’s point of view. The girl and her mother decide to create a one-of-a-kind quilt from Oma’s belongings to ease Oma’s transition to her new home.

“We want to get to know each and every one of you and have you over and visit, and we want to come over here and see you, too,” Gay said.

In anticipation of their first visit, Preschool students are making a paper version of the quilt from Oma’s Quilt for their Emerald Pond neighbors this week. And in a scene straight out of Make Way for Ducklings, all 105 Preschool children will walk their precious piece of art across the street and meet their new senior friends as part of DA’s Unity Day on Sept. 26. Emerald Pond residents plan to bake cookies for the children to take back with them.

Carrow says she thinks despite the age difference, the two groups will actually have a lot in common, and that creating a new thread that crosses generations by crossing the street will have all kinds of benefits. 

“Kids feel like they are enriching lives and contributing in positive ways to seniors’ lives and existence, and they get to have relationships with people in grandparent-type roles.”

An independent, coeducational day school, pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
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