Mike McCormick was talking about the unlikely meeting of a bumble bee and a bear.
Actually, he was reading aloud about characters featured in a children’s book. McCormick was connected online via Zoom with a boy of kindergarten age who followed along with him. They could see each other, as well as an electronic version of the illustrated book that highlighted printed words as they were spoken.
McCormick, a member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UMass Boston, wasn’t reading with a grandson or anyone he had even met until recently. He was participating in an innovative pilot project initially developed to help two kinds of people who often struggled with the limitations imposed on daily life by the COVID-19 pandemic – young children and older adults.
The intergenerational tutoring project is managed jointly by the Department of Applied Psychology at Northeastern University’s Bouve College of Health Sciences and the Gerontology Department at UMass Boston. It started small this spring with five students and is gearing up for a second, bigger phase intended to reach 10 times as many students.
The ultimate goal is to create a refined model that helps older adults connect online with children for educational purposes on a much larger scale across the country. Project leaders believe the program can deliver online experiences that will remain valuable well after the COVID-19 threat has fully passed. But it was the shock of the pandemic that first got the concept off the drawing board and onto screens. Continue reading