IJ students, St. Mark’s residents bond over technology

Published 12:01 pm Saturday, March 9, 2019

Sitting inside one of the pods at IJ Holton Intermediate School, residents from St. Mark’s Lutheran Home were engaged with students on the usage of technology.

Friday afternoon marked the first time that St. Mark’s residents came to IJ Holton for a visit.

“It came up while we were handing out carnations at St. Mark’s that residents were interested in a technology piece,” said Becky Gerdes, IJ Holton special education teacher. “We are a STEAM school, and we thought ‘let’s build a connection’ by showing St. Mark’s residents what students are learning here, and the residents can share with students things about their former schooling.”

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Sitting by their partners, students showed residents how to turn on an iPad and demonstrated the usage of augmented reality to show three-dimensional models of planets. Using apps, students also showed St. Mark’s residents how to control robots via technology.

Watching various devices come to life with flashing lights and colors, St. Mark’s residents were amazed by the opportunities of different educational components that exist for IJ Holton students in the present day. “I’m very new to learning about this technology and I’m just observing all that’s new,” said Donna Jarvis, St. Mark’s resident. “It’s absolutely astounding. These kids know much more than we do.”

Jessica Conway, life enrichment supervisor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Home, said that she and Gerdes had been working together in arranging more times for residents and students to interact with each other. Intergenerational connections, Conway said, would be beneficial for students to learn from their elders, while the residents would learn about technology from their younger friends.

“We’ve really been working on intergenerational programming,” she said. “I think it’s been well received as these parties learn from each other. Students delivered flowers to residents, and now residents are coming by the school to spend some time with their friends. “

During the visit, there was a moment of realization and happiness. Michael Fuentes, a sixth grade student, recognized Jarvis and immediately ran up to her and gave her a hug. Fuentes volunteered regularly at St. Mark’s and was surprised to see his friend at school.

“I really like making connection,” he said of seeing Jarvis. “I love giving back to the community. It’s such a surprise to see her here.”

The feeling was mutual for Jarvis, who was happy to see her friend from St. Mark’s Lutheran Home.

“He’s such a nice little guy,” she said. “I’m so glad you came by and said hi. It’s nice to see these kids as students. It was such a surprise to see him here. I didn’t know that he went to school here.”

The interaction that Fuentes and Jarvis had was one of the main goals that Gerdes and Conway hoped that residents and students would have together during these types of outings.

“It’s all about building those connections,” Gerdes added.