A new academic year; a new Parlours of Wonder school partner

The new academic year has kicked off with a new bi-monthly Parlours of Wonder partnership between residents of Blaise Weston Court and some visiting pupils from Our Lady of the Rosary RC VC Primary School in Lawrence Weston. Seven pupils will be visiting the Parlours of Wonder room at Blaise Weston Court twice a month over the coming year and we hope it will be a satisfying experience for residents and pupils.

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Endings…but hopefully also new beginnings!

We’ve been working with Y5 pupils at St Stephen’s C of E Junior School in Bristol over the last 4 months because they have been regularly visiting nearby  Deerhurst care home to participate in intergenerational activities with some of the residents. We, the research team at Bristol University, together with the gifted activities coordinator at Deerhurst and the Alive! activities presenter, Niki, have delighted in watching how the pupils have grown in confidence over the sessions. We have also delighted in watching how relationships have developed among those participating to the point that when an older resident is not present at a session their absence is  immediately commented upon by the pupils and they are much missed. As the teacher who has been escorting the pupils to the Parlour of Wonder sessions reflected at the end of term that: “We have built up some very special bonds with the residents and staff of the care home and we hope to continue to work with them in the future.”

I certainly hope so; long may it continue!

Meanwhile, here are some of my favourite photos from the Parlour of Wonder with the St Stephen’s pupils:

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Britannia day care centre’s Parlour of Wonder

It’s been a busy month at Britannia day care centre in Clevedon. Those who frequent Britannia on Mondays will have had the pleasure of meeting 6 confident, cheerful Y5 pupils from nearby Mary Elton Primary School. The pupils have been  participating in Parlour of Wonder sessions led by Gill at Alive! activities. The sessions focus on intergenerational co-learning, sharing and discovery.

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The pupils also used the Tangible Memories app on ipads to visually and audibly document their experiences of school, which they shared with older day care visitors who reflected how some things have changed and how other aspects of school life haven’t since they were at were themselves at primary school.

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We hope that the pupils will return to Britannia next academic year, but meanwhile, we hope they and the day care centre users have a wonderful summer!

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You can’t clap with one hand only.

Hand-clapping games have ruled the school play ground for centuries,  but who knew they were such a wonderful inter-generational facilitator in care homes, as well as tried and tested social bonding activities between friends in the playground?

During the first Parlours of Wonder sessions held in our partner care settings between residents and local school pupils, it was the hand-clapping games that provoked the most memories, conversation and physical interaction between residents and pupils! …Just like the proverb informs us,  “you can’t clap with one hand only.”

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I was amazed at how enthusiastically the Year 5 pupils responded to older residents recalling the songs that accompanied their hand-clapping games when they were young, such as,  ‘A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea’ and ‘My Mother Told Me (Rubber Dolly)’ .  The older residents were also entertained by some contemporary versions that pupils confidently gave renditions of, however, whilst the lyrics might have changed across generations, the basic hand-clapping sequences had not.

Hand-clapping accompanied by singing, was an activity that facilitated interaction between the school pupils and older residents, because it is an activity shared across the generations strongly associated with childhood and school, as well as being valuable because it is a physical, multisensory activity that does not exclude those with restricted mobility, hearing or vision impairment, nor those with dementia. To that we say, put your hands together and applaud (loudly!)

 

 

Vinyl records or giant DVDs?

One of our project partners, Blaise Weston Court extra care facility, held an Open Day on Friday 31st March. It provided an invaluable opportunity to meet a group of Year 5 pupils from a local primary school (Oasis Long Cross) who will be participating in our Parlours of Wonder project after the Easter break.

The pupils were intrigued by the objects they found in the Parlour of Wonder room located on the ground floor of Blaise Weston Court. A series of boxes that are chronologically labelled with the different decades through the Twentieth century particularly grabbed their attention. They rummaged in the boxes and marvelled at landline telephone sets, black and white family photographs from the 1930s, workmen’s tools and various board games, but the biggest surprise and wonder was reserved for the record player, vinyl records and bed warming pan. A female pupil who had never seen vinyl records before suggested they were “giant DVDs” and one of the boys, puzzled, like the other pupils, over the bed warming pan. When one of the residents at Blaise Weston Court asked them what they thought it was, nearly all of the pupils suggested it was a pizza oven!

These responses made us all laugh out loud because we all appreciated in that moment how much we take for granted with regards to the objects we encounter and use in our daily lives. We also reflected upon how quickly a number of these objects change or become obsolete.

After a very enjoyable hour or so the pupils returned to their school escorted by one of their teachers, who later emailed us to report that:”the children were buzzing after last Friday’s visit. They spent the walk back trying to work out all the historical events that would have happened while Barry has been alive!” (Barry is one of the participating residents on the Parlours of Wonder project)

Meeting the pupils from Oasis Long Cross was a delight for all involved and reminds us of the importance and value of intergenerational interaction, story telling and knowledge exchange. Long may it continue!

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Meet Bonnie Binary!

I’m Annie and I’m participating on the Parlours of Wonder project as an e-textile designer. You can learn more about what I do here.
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Last week I had the opportunity to attend  Blaise Weston Court’s open day.
The Parlour of Wonder was busy throughout the day with all age groups  popping by and it was wonderful to have so much helpful feedback for my prototypes. I can now work on the improvements to the technology with confidence!
Prototype 1 – Chair accessories 
I was delighted with the helpful feedback I received about adding controls to an armchair. Several residents and staff thought it would be helpful to have sound in an antimacassar on the back of an armchair as many older people have hearing issues. They liked the idea of having controls just to the side of the arms on the chair so less mobile people could control their immediate environment. We discussed how these covers with embedded tech controls could be attached to the chair.  We will have to consider how the covers could be washed and the tech detached. The soft textile textures were much enjoyed and felt to be comforting on the arms. We will test further textures and colours to help people with visual impairment use the textile control buttons providing them with simple, easy to access, control over their immediate environment; for example with regards to the TV, radio and room lighting.
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Prototype 2 – The musical cushion
We discussed how I might use the Tangible Memories – Story Creator app to download sounds onto the cushion surface using the shells. I asked residents and visitors what sounds they would like to embed in the cushion. Popular responses where favourite music, bird songs, messages and comments from family and friends that could be refreshed on a weekly basis. I am thinking about how I can continue with these great ideas!
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Prototype 3 – The cushion control
I have tested the cushion control with several people. We discussed colour, texture, size and function and asked what would people like to control. In response, I would like to make several other prototypes with clear bold primary colours for the soft buttons, emphasising the use of texture so you can find the buttons easily both by touch and visually. Areas of soft fur to stroke and provide comfort were also popular. We discussed the idea of simplifying the tech and providing large, easy to use soft buttons, on or off, using the cushion to control the radio, TV or a light to give an older person control of their immediate environment.
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Jean very generously took time to try out my prototype and offer invaluable feedback; thank you!
Another prototype I am developing for the Parlours of Wonder project involves linking audio to images; the older residents and school pupils particularly liked activating the bird song that came from each of these familiar bird iamges.
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Thank you to the staff and residents of Blaise Weston Court for all your help and support on the day , as well as all the visitors I spoke to!

Meeting our 1st School Partner

The 1st of March is a significant date in the British calendar this year; the feast day of St. David (the Patron Saint of Wales) and also, for many households up and down the country, a reason for eating too many pancakes (Ash Wednesday)!

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But for Helen and I, it was also a special day because we paid a visit to St. Stephen’s CoE junior school to meet 6 wonderful Y5 pupils who had been selected to participate on our Parlours of Wonder project. These pupils’ parents and guardians had also generously given their consent so that their child can participate in activities with older residents at Deerhurst care home in Soundwell, Bristol. We will be running these activities and visits over the following months.

The pupils were adept at using ipads and the StoryCreator app so we think they will be confident at helping the older residents at Deerhurst navigate the technology. Some of the pupils have experience of visiting a relative in care and/or with dementia and Helen and I found their views on dementia and care homes fascinating. Without naming the pupils, one told us that a care home is not a prison because prisons have “mean guards” but care homes “have people taking care” and another pupil who visits a grandparent in a care home said when they go to  the care home “I see nature and it’s very pretty”.

So we think they’re going to love visiting Deerhurst and the residents because it’s a vibrant, caring community with many activities for residents that involve nature and being outside…the pupils were very excited to learn of the beach at Deerhurst!

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It was a privilege to meet the pupils and their dedicated teacher Ms Lowrie!