BUCKSPORT, Maine — The music of older generations rang out from the auditorium at Bucksport Middle School on Tuesday morning.
The seventh graders performed pieces from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles, the Andrews Sisters to Queen, as they rehearsed for Wednesday night’s presentation titled, “Generational Snapshots of the Past: A Focus on Community Unity.”
The presentation June 15 will be based on the students’ yearlong, interdisciplinary school project, which focused on interviews with about 30 senior citizens and the survey responses from about 100 senior residents in the RSU 25 towns of Orland, Bucksport, Verona Island and Prospect. During the year, the students used the information they gathered to produce a variety of projects including writings, portraits, photos, math displays and health charts.
As a finale, the youngsters have invited the older residents who participated, as well as the rest of the community, to come and see what they have done. And though they expressed a little nervousness on Tuesday about the coming performance, they were confident “their seniors” would like what they have done.
“I’m a little nervous about the performance; it’s a big audience,’’ said Lily Cox. “But we’ve all done a tremendous job. Our performances are great, our graphs are great and our portraits are phenomenal. I’m not really nervous about what they’re going to think.”
Her classmate Dakota Gross was even more positive.
“I think they’re going to be blown away with what we’ve done,” he said. “I think it will mean a lot to them. They sacrificed their time for this and this is a way to pay them back.”
He said he hoped a lot of people would show up for the presentation so they could see what the students have done.
The students said they were initially surprised by some of the information they gathered from the senior citizens, the oldest of whom was 92. The differences in education, health and technology seemed to stand out as they talked about the changes from generation to generation — from transistor radios and black and white televisions to current day iPods, satellite radios and laptops.
“My sense was that this was going to be boring,” said Jordon Cunningham. “But talking with them, I got a whole different idea of that time. It actually was really interesting.”
And perhaps more than gaining information, the youngsters seemed to make a connection with their older neighbors that has lasted beyond the interviews. In a recent conversation, they almost always referred to them as “our seniors,” as Cheyanne Stone did when talking about the differences in their lives.
“Everything has changed a lot from how they lived and how we live now,” she said. “My senior was born at her home because there were no hospitals.”
The thematic, project-based approach to learning resulted in the students working more closely with their teachers on the different assignments and in teachers working more closely with each other.
“This has forced us to do cross-discipline teaching; we’re not isolated in our classrooms,” said seventh-grade math teacher Bob Valenoti. “All of the disciplines are connected. We’re teaching across the curriculum and that binds us together.”
The biggest thing, said art teacher Leah Olsen, is that this type of project makes learning more meaningful.
“Learning is fun when it means something,” she said. “When kids get information from many different areas, it helps them to make connections between content area, teachers and community. This is what education needs to be working toward.”
Valenoti said it has been rewarding to see students’ leadership skills develop during the course of the project and to see some students come out of their shells.
“There are kids who you would never think of as getting up on stage, that are up there performing,” he said.
Wednesday night’s presentation will include performances of music that seniors identified as their favorites. Some students also will read essays and poems based on the interviews they conducted in January.
The displays will include essays and poetry based on the individual interviews as well as graphs that explain some of the information seniors provided about their musical tastes, health and housing issues, voting patterns and politics. And one whole wall of the school will display pencil portraits created by students from photographs of some of the seniors taken during the interviews. They youngsters even created a cookbook based on recipes the seniors provided for them.
The presentation will run 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 15, at the Bucksport Middle School Performing Arts Center. Refreshments will follow in the cafeteria.