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School One Explores How to Age Artfully

An arts program at the school brings teens and elders together for increased insight and mindful learning

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Since 2007, School One has thrived as an independent high school, here on East Side, offering innovative hands-on learning opportunities and experiences to its students. One such experience is a humanities class called Working Stories, based on the idea that everyone has a story to tell.

Students in the class are paired with adults ages 55 and older to develop stories, practice performance techniques, and advance their writing craft. Together, the pairs create a series of stories reflective of their personal experiences and receive feedback from three teaching artists.

The program’s goal is simple but powerful: to bring community members of different ages together to provide one another with inspiring, valuable insight.

Each session is two hours long and includes in-depth questions and discussions that allow for collaborative thinking and reflection. Reed Bryant, a student at School One and past participant in Working Stories, describes one of the key lessons he gained from the course: “The message I’m trying to tell people with my story is that just having a talent doesn’t make you better than others. And you shouldn’t rely just upon your innate skills. If you do have a talent you should probably make use of it, but it’s not everything. The biggest part is how you feel about what you’re doing.”

Working Stories is funded by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and by a grant from Aroha Philanthropies, a nonprofit organization that encourages older adults to express their ideas through making and sharing art, which inspires mindfulness, social engagement and cultural enrichment. School One is working to increase the course’s presence in the state, partnering with local nursing centers and retirement homes.

Jennifer Borman, head of School One, recognizes the importance of providing both students and older adults with this unique learning opportunity. “Working Stories inspires our teens to think about their future paths by hearing firsthand of the well-traveled paths taken by the elders. While they are so willing to share their stories, the elders are sometimes not aware of the profound impact they are making on our teens.”