New Brunswick

FHS students find 'sweet richness of shared stories' in not-so-average assignment

In November, a Fredericton High School teacher brought her Grade 9 class to the Ste. Anne’s Court retirement centre for an unusual assignment. Awaiting the students were seniors, each with a cherished object and a story to tell.

English class interviewed Fredericton seniors about cherished objects

Brett Cormier was among the Frederiction High School students who interviewed seniors at the Ste. Anne's Court retirement centre about their cherished items. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

In November, a Fredericton High School teacher brought her Grade 9 class to the Ste. Anne's Court retirement centre for an unusual assignment.

Awaiting the students were seniors, each with a cherished object and a story to tell.

English teacher Valerie Marshall's goal was to connect the younger generation with their elders. She had the students interview the seniors about their beloved object with the hope of publishing a book someday and revisiting the retirement home.

On Thursday, the seniors got their first look at the finished product.

"I think they did a marvellous job," Joanne McLeod said after the book presentation at St. Anne's Court.

Students Parsa Hekmatpanah and Ewan Robertson told the story of McLeod, a longtime advocate for people living with physical disabilities, receiving the Order of Canada.

Joanne McLeod's story in the students' finished book project. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

"I think the book was so good and interesting, and I think that Ms. McLeod, she was so excited about it," said Hekmatpanah. "And she loves it so much, and I'm happy that I see her again."

After the interviews, the students spent the next few weeks writing and rewriting their stories. Before the holiday break in December, a local printing company offered to put the students' final work in print at a discount.

A photographer and graphic artist donated their time, and the stories that bound the two groups briefly together are now bound together themselves.

The seniors interviewed for the book, Captured Memories, recently got their first look at the completed project. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The book, Captured Memories, was dedicated "to teens and seniors who have discovered the sweet richness of shared stories and relationships."

What was a narrative writing exercise on the surface became much more for the students, and Marshall said it showed in the final drafts.

"What I witnessed with my students was powerful," she said.

FHS teacher Valerie Marshall came up with the idea to interview seniors as a way to connect the two generations. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

"I realized when they had an authentic audience, when they knew that they were writing for someone other than their teacher, suddenly the writing took on a whole new meaning."

The experience even helped one of her students land a job.

These Grade 9 FHS English students are meeting with seniors to record their stories for a book. 0:45

Following the interviews, the retirement home asked Marshall if any students were interested in working at Ste. Anne's, and Brett Cormier jumped at the opportunity.

Cormier worked with Marshall on a cover letter and resumé.

"I had an interview the next day," said a smiling Cormier.

With files from Catherine Harrop

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.