Donations will help our mission to use Oral History, Music and Art to strengthen communities and foster reconciliation.

“Thank you for teaching us that learning about others can be an inspiration. The stories about the elders are emotional and inspiring. It’s cool to know the life of a person. I didn’t know how sweet and sad it is to know one’s life.” Samantha, 6th grader, St. Louis Park, MN

Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song
Community Celebration of Place (CCP) works with urban, rural and suburban schools to bring individuals who are recognized as elders and who reflect the diversity of their community into the classroom through a program called Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song (EWCS). ‘Elder’ is an earned title; they are individuals who recognize that their efforts can have impact beyond the immediate and into the generations to come. Age does not dictate Elder status. In many instances, participation in EWCS brings recognition to an elder who may not have been identified as such. For example, at one school the custodian had been selected to participate in EWCS. During the interview, it was discovered he had been a teacher in Laos. After EWCS the students and staff had new respect for him and the elder realized he was still a teacher – as an Elder in his community and at the school where he worked.

The project begins with staff, faculty, students and parents identifying and inviting elders within the community to participate in EWCS. Schools are encouraged to select elders who illustrate the diversity of voices that come together in the creation of any community, and to create an opportunity for students to honor all kinds of experiences in an environment of respect. Once elders are identified, a music artist (Larry Long or others) works with each class and elder in a 9-10 day “residency”. The elders are invited to share their life stories with the students. Students distill the essence of each life story and translate each essence into a theme. The theme then guides the writing of a song. The songs, written by the artist and the students, are then sung during a community celebration held at the end of the EWCS residency.

“Parents and community members loved this event and felt it was great that the schools would be involved in recognized and celebrating people in the community.” Dr. Rosemary Lawrence, Principal, Eisenhower Elementary, Hopkins, MN

EWCS supports and integrates the development of academic skills, self-confidence, empathy and creativity by engaging children in an authentic learning experience that matters to the children themselves. The program impacts the children, elders, school community and community at large in several significant ways:

• Building community

• Building intergenerational bridges

• Honoring people of many cultures

• Documenting a community’s history

• Creating meaning out of experience

“My interview experience is helping me discover some of the significant learnings taking place in our schools today. I’m glad I paused long enough to receive this once-in-a-lifetime gift from bright, motivated kids who got my attention with their generosity and talents. Because now, at age 87 it’s easier for me to just slumber along.” Roland Larson, WWII Veteran, EWCS Elder

EWCS has proven itself as a valuable tool to assist in education and community building. CCP is at a key point to disseminate this model and has set these action steps to move the organization in that direction.

1) Strengthen CCP's ability to document its work

2) Disseminate EWCS model through residencies, seminars and an updated website.

3) Expand work with Elders beyond the EWCS interview proces

CCP was founded in 1999 by Larry Long and a national group of education leaders to formalize the multicultural and multigenerational model of learning and community building that Long, CCP Executive Director, had developed from 20 years of work in communities across the world as a troubadour, activist, and educator. The principal program of CCP, EWCS, began in the 1980s in Oklahoma when Long was asked to bring the tradition of Woody Guthrie into the schools of Woody’s home state. That experience led to a project in Alabama, where Long worked with children and elders in 27 rural Alabama communities. Long went on to work with other communities in the Dakotas, California, Georgia, Tennessee, Minnesota, Canada, South Africa, Brazil, Russia, and Scotlan

EWCS has now evolved into a transferable process that can be incorporated into the daily curriculum of schools to meet the educational standards required of schools today, while at the same time restoring community and building connections with community elders through multigenerational, multicultural learning.

“Before the song is written it’s like being a bird in a cage. Once you write the song and sing it, the bird flies out of the cage and becomes free.” Becka, 6th grade, Green Isle Community School, Green Isle, MN

Also see StarTribune article at http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/39976932.html

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