Kindergarten children and aged care residents in Ballarat are reaping the benefits of intergenerational learning.
It is 'Circle Day' at Hailey House in Ballarat North every Friday when Midlands Kindergarten runs its four-year-old morning session within the aged care facility.
They are learning about generosity, kindness and empathy over the year and what the cycle of life means.Emma Manton, Midlands Kindergarten
Around 22 children come together to share their learning time with around 30 aged care residents.
The Courier visited the last session for the year on Friday last week where children sat with residents at tables painting Christmas decorations and baking biscuits in a room filled with chatter and laughter.
Midlands Kindergarten four-year-old teacher and education leader Emma Manton said the program had enriched the children's learning and brought joy to the residents since it began three years ago.
"We see children that are shy at the start of the year become confident and capable and able to chat to the residents," she said.
"They are learning about generosity, kindness and empathy over the year and what the cycle of life means.
"It helps children to be flexible in their thinking and adapt to change."
Ms Manton shared the story of one child who participated in the program last year.
"He did not talk at all. He made a bead bracelet and gave it to Jean and she then made him a little mouse," she said.
"It was a connection - non verbal - but so beautiful."
The program's name, 'Circle Day', stands for celebrating intergenerational relationships and creating learning for everyone.
Residents and children have come to know each other by name and have created special memories singing, playing, planting, creating and eating together throughout the past year.
Hailey House lifestyle co-ordinator Julie Guy said mixing generations filled gaps for children and residents who did not have family close by.
She told a story of a child who forged a close relationship with one of the residents, now deceased, that lead to regular visits to Hailey House with the child's parents and siblings to visit their new friend.
"There have been some lovely friendships forged and it really is just a happy time," Mr Guy said.
Many of the residents said the regular visits from the children helped keep them feeling young.
Resident Joy Stevenson said she had looked forward to the weekly visits throughout the past three years.
"The way the children respond to us is so lovely," she said.
"They really bring a lot of delight. A lot of us didn't have children of our own. They bring a lot of joy and life to us."
Eureka Community Kindergarten Association chief executive Jo Geurts said educators and families were embracing intergenerational learning programs throughout Ballarat.
The Hepburn Kindergarten, Clunes and District Preschool and the Ballarat Fidelity Club Kindergarten also run their own sessions within aged care facilities.
The intergenerational learning program will expand next year as Mt Clear Community Kindergarten, Sebstopol South Kindergarten, and Iris Ramsay Kindergarten create their own partnerships with aged care facilities.
"I think more kindergartens and schools can engage in this way because it is so rich and rewarding," Ms Manton said.
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