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Intergenerational Learning at School

In primary school, I was thrilled to have a buddy and thrilled to be a buddy. For readers outside of Victoria (Australia), the school buddy program involves pairing an older and younger student to ease the transition to school for the younger child and encourage responsibility in the older child.

In high school, my favourite activity was being in the Jazz and Concert bands. My instruments were clarinet and saxophone, although I very much see myself as a clarinet player who learned to play saxophone who joined the jazz band (and not the other way around*). The older students would look out for me and the younger ones would admire my relative age and maturity.

Our conductor, Mr Collins is my favourite teacher of all time. He was almost at retirement age during my time in the band but was as cheeky and playful as any of us kids. He rode roller coasters with us during our band camp in Queensland and joined in on pranks with the other music teachers. He also wasn’t just a big kid, he was passionate about music and firm about us committing to our craft and performing at our best. Mr Collins obviously cared deeply about how we performed, carried ourselves and worked together. For me, he embodied the Circle of Security ideal of being Bigger Stronger Wise and Kind.

With Mr. Collins on our band camp in Sydney in 2003.

I think we need opportunities throughout our life to learn from elders and to be elders. When a teacher is particularly gifted and connects authentically with a student they can transform into a mentor, impacting the young person's life far beyond school and even their own teaching subject. Equally children benefit from the opportunity to occasionally take on the role of helper in a classroom setting - to take pride in their responsibilities to their peers. Children are so geared towards mastery yet we often forget to allow them the chance to be leaders when we are busy filling their time with new learning opportunities.

In my next blog entry, I reflect of intergenerational mentoring in the context of culture.

*Are there musician readers who identify their instrument with their personality? The Creative School Music Blog suggests that clarinetists are “bright, alert and sociable” and “like working in groups and are born leaders.” I’m quite happy with those attributes.

If you would like to share your experiences of intergenerational learning at school, I would love to hear. You can email me at


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