If you could choose to have your learning environment’s hub within any physical space, where would it be? If you imagined beyond the traditional space of a school building, what would you come up with?
For Hudson Lab School co-founders, Cate Han and Stacey Seltzer, they wanted their learner-centered environment to be in a space that was truly community-focused.
Previously, Cate had assisted the founder of Little Leaf School—a nature-based preschool—to integrate their program with the Andrus on Hudson senior living community with its rich 26-acre campus. This idea of establishing an intergenerational learning environment stuck with Cate, and she approached the nursing home’s director about another idea—to begin a project-based learning school within the facility. Given the success of Little Leaf’s integration, the director was ready to press go on Hudson Lab School.
Two years into their work, the leaders at Hudson Lab School could not see themselves providing learning experiences anywhere else. From informal connections, like young learners eating lunch with the Grands (how they refer to the senior residents), to formal connections, like weekly scheduled library time with the Andrus on Hudson community, intergenerational socially embedded learning is naturally-occurring in this model.
The young learners grow such a close connection to their elders, they commonly tackle projects related to the natural problems that come with age. One recent project posed the question: How do we use the intersection of science, technology, and design to bring nature to the senior citizens in a way that addresses equal access? The oldest members at Andrus on Hudson often experienced a drastic decrease in their ability to enjoy the 26-acre campus due to limited mobility. So, young learners, armed with a remarkable sense of learner agency, set out to design simple solutions that would improve the health and well-being of their older friends.
To see learners as young as four and five years old connect their learning in a personalized, relevant, and contextualized manner is a sight to behold. By solving project problems for the seniors in the community, they are able to develop empathy and stronger relationships, consistently engage in creative thinking, and connect their project learnings to hard skills, such as mathematics and reading.
As Hudson Lab School continues evolving, their intergenerational community is looking forward to opening their environment to more and more education leaders who are asking transformational questions about learning. When we begin asking “why” about the traditional education experience, we will step into once unknown, now exciting opportunities.