The Intergenerational School in Shaker-Buckeye is creating a model educational environment at its new St. Luke’s Manor location — using multi-age groups, positive reinforcement and empowerment in a collaborative teaching environment.
The school, which was founded in 2000, began the school year just after Labor Day at its new location in a wing of the old St. Luke’s Hospital on Shaker Boulevard. The location was the only thing that changed, though. Teachers and administrators remain single-minded in their goals for the students.
“We want (the students) to leave here as lifelong learners and spirited citizens,” said Eric McGarvey, director of admissions and community relations. “When they leave here, we want them to be ready for high-performing high schools.”
While the desired result for the students is not unique, the route the school takes to get there is. As the name suggests, at The Intergenerational School, students interact with senior citizens in the community who serve as mentors.
“The difference between us and other charter schools is, aside from the fact that we are the top-rated K-8 charter school in the state of Ohio and we have been for a few years now, is that we really integrate the intergenerational theme into the class and daily lives of the students,” McGarvey said.
Area senior citizens come in and read with students regularly so the students can just enjoy reading. Students from Case Western Reserve University, Saint Ignatius High School and other local high-performing schools also come in to work with students. Finally, each class adopts an assisted living home in the area and students go out to do enrichment activities with the senior citizens living there.
“There are benefits for both the students and the adults,” McGarvey said, noting that it was helpful for students to interact with adults other than their teachers. “Obviously, for the students, it affects their social growth and their academic growth. For the senior citizens, it’s actually improving the quality of their lives. They’re actually remembering things they had forgotten years ago, and many more things are added benefits, as well.”
The interactions with mentors help students in a way that is more than academic, according to McGarvey. He said the experience really helps students who may not have grandparents or are missing an elder’s influence in some way at home by, in a sense, providing a more complete family experience.
“What this environment does is it supports what they’re getting at home, but it affords them the opportunity to work with up to six to 10 different adults other than their teachers,” McGarvey said. “And it affords them the chance to work with sibling-like students, so it’s like a family culture in the classroom.”
The Intergenerational School also empowers students by keeping the atmosphere in the school as positive as possible. McGarvey said teachers do this by not yelling at or reprimanding their students.
“(The students) are empowered at age 5 to make their own decisions and make good choices,” McGarvey said. “We are very much all about those positive choices. We want to make a big deal and celebrate those.”
The teachers and staff follow the Nurtured Heart model — rather than punish poor decisions, the teachers make time to celebrate students’ good decisions and achievements.
When the school was founded 13 years ago, there were just 30 students. Now, the school educates more than 200 kindergarten through eighth-graders.
“Currently, we have six Primary Classrooms, which are the equivalent of K-2. Then we have five Junior Cluster Classrooms, which are the equivalent of third through fifth grade,” McGarvey said. “And then we have three Senior Cluster Classrooms, which are the equivalent of grades six through eight.”
Promotion through the school’s learning stages is based on mastery.
Last year, there was an almost 100 percent retention rate allowing openings only for the kindergarten level after the school finished its enrollment process. The school is so popular, there is a waiting list and school administrators are considering adding another Senior Cluster class as well as a location in Collinwood.
The school attracts students from as far as Maple Heights and Lakewood. According to McGarvey, the main idea is to get Cleveland’s parents informed about the academic options for their students and get the children the best education possible.
“I think we’re setting a pretty good example here of what a great inner-city school can look like,” he said. “Even if you take away the fancy new walls and everything, you’d still see the same students doing the same work.”
Great Schools in Greater University Circle
School of the Month: The Intergenerational School
Address: 11327 Shaker Boulevard, Suite 200 E
Contact: 216-721-0120; www.tisonline.org
~ Article by Justin Rutledge, a graduate of Benedictine High School with a journalism degree from Bowling Green State University.