MONTREAL, MARCH 1, 2012 – For their second annual Inter-Generational Event, which took place recently, Dunrae Gardens Elementary School in Town of Mount Royal (T.M.R.) hosted 20 local senior citizens for a journey to the Land of the Rising Sun.
The idea for the Japanese-themed Inter-Generational Event evolved last November, when the Grade 5 students of Marianne Botelho’s English class read the storybook Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. The book is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, an 11-year-old girl from Hiroshima, Japan who died from leukemia in October of 1955, 10 years after an atomic bomb was dropped on her hometown by an American bomber, which helped bring an end to World War II. When she was diagnosed with her illness, young Sadako decided to make 1000 paper cranes as a symbol of her fight to live. Nearly 60 years later, Sadako’s 1000 paper cranes have become a worldwide peace movement.
“The children were very inspired and moved by Sadako’s story,” said Ms. Botelho. “After that, they began to research everything about Japan and Japanese culture, food, dress and even the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. They just took the idea and ran with it. They even made 1,067 of their own paper cranes, which decorated the school gymnasium where the event was held.”
The event began in a classroom, where the visiting seniors were taught by a group of specially selected student ambassadors how to make their own paper cranes through the Japanese paper folding method of origami. It was followed by a slide presentation about Japan, and a recital of several poems by the students, including one that was done by one student in both Japanese and English.
Afterwards, both students and seniors proceeded to the gymnasium, where a pizza lunch, along with tea and dessert -- courtesy of the Dunrae Gardens Home and School Association -- were served to the seniors by the student ambassadors, many of whom were dressed in traditional Japanese costumes. They also interacted with their guests in a friendly, social manner. After the meal, the seniors were treated to a traditional Japanese fan dance presentation accompanied by a popular hip-hop song from Japan, followed by a performance of an ancient folk song that was sung entirely in Japanese. It was followed by a performance of The Story of Sadako, an adaptation of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, which was done by Montreal theatrical troupe Geordie Productions for the seniors and the school’s entire grade 4, 5 and 6 student population. The event concluded with the presentation of special thank you gifts to the seniors by Dunrae Gardens Principal Darlene Kehyayan, which included individually laminated signs of each of their names written in Japanese lettering.
“This was a wonderful program and a great experience for us and them,” said Jennie Paluch, whose grandson is a Grade 6 student at Dunrae Gardens. “It was great to see the students take this so seriously and watch their enthusiasm. It was well organized and they are learning a lot of social skills as a result.”
“The seniors had such a great time last year, that they enthusiastically asked me when they would be coming back this year,” said Jan Lauer, who is an Assistant Supervisor with T.M.R.’s Recreation, Culture and Community Activities Department specializing in seniors’ programs, as well as an alumnus of Dunrae Gardens. “Many of their grandchildren don’t live in Montreal, so they enjoy any opportunity to get together and work with young children.”
Also in attendance were EMSB Parent Commissioner Patricia Willis, as well as T.M.R. Councillors Melpa Kamateros and John D. Miller.
The second Annual Inter-Generational Event at Dunrae Gardens was held in conjunction with the Town of Mount Royal (notably the T.M.R. Adult Center, and the Table des Amis des Aines and the T.M.R. Volunteer Centre. For the past two years the EMSB has had a partnership with the Foundation for Vital Aging to promote a wide range of programming and activities between EMSB students and seniors residing in the West End of Montreal.