Older adult woman exchanges laugh with middle school child in classroom.

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Intergenerational Learning Activities: Arts

Stimulation and exposure to the arts can help children grow into well-informed and educated adults. These interactive suggestions can help grandparents and older adult volunteers to build a child’s appreciation of individuality, beauty, and history while strengthening intergenerational bonds together.  

Of course, the possibilities for intergenerational connections on the arts are limitless.  With the support of the Verizon Foundation and resources from Thinkfinity.org, this guide provides brief activity descriptions geared toward a broad range of ages. We encourage you to submit additional suggestions and to connect with other older adults in an online user group designed for grandparents and volunteers with similar interests.

Pre-k to Grade Three: Expose Children to a Wide Range of Experiences to Unleash Their Creative Potential 

Young children need a range of visual and sensory experiences to inspire and stimulate their creative potential.  In addition to building visual, motor, and linguistic skills, art appreciation can also help children get in touch with our own feelings and express them more confidently. 

  • Take a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel, talk about what you would paint on your ceiling, and then create your own masterpieces on your backs or upside down on the wall
  • Watch a traditional flamenco dance, make your own castanets, and create your own interpretive dance about the lifecycle of a butterfly
  • Play five easy drama games that don’t require a set design to unleash your inner thespian
  • Learn about welcome mats from India called Rangoli and create your own colorful patterns together

Looking for additional fun ideas? ArtsEdge provides over 75 everyday arts challenges that will help you create artful fun without taking up lots of time.

Grades Four to Eight: Add History and Stories to Art Projects that Appeal to Middle Schoolers 

Adding a dash of history as well as your own personal stories to more advanced art projects can expand middle school students’ horizons about the arts.

  • Revisit the 1950s by reading about paint by numbers, talk about your memories of paint by numbers, and create your own example
  • Learn about different types of quilts popular in the United States (patriotic, story, family, and friendship) and create your own friend or family quilt using poster board paper
  • Explore the evolution of early comic strips, discuss your favorite comic books, create your own comic strip format to convey nonfiction information
  • Find out about the ancient art of shadow boxes and bring shadows to life with a  puppet screen that you can make from a cardboard box

Grades Nine to Twelve:  Putting a Modern Twist on Traditional Forms

Incorporating modern twists into classical art forms can increase their appeal to teenagers while explaining some fundamental concepts of art appreciation.

  • Investigate the poetics of hip-hop, compare it to the rhythms of Shakespearean sonnets, and create your own hip-hop lyrics together
  • Write your own play together while discovering the ancient roots of modern theater
  • Step into a dancer’s shoes to learn about the mechanics and history of early modern dance at the Martha Graham Studio

Additional Resources:

Elders Share the Arts

Kairos Dance

Magic Me

National Center for Creative Aging

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