Cross-Age Teaching Plus Community Service Equals Enhanced Self-Esteem

By Aspras, Marcie | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

Cross-Age Teaching Plus Community Service Equals Enhanced Self-Esteem


Aspras, Marcie, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


Abstract: "Cross-Age Teaching + Community Service = Enhanced Self-Esteem" is a creative approach to build student selfesteem. High school students host elementary children and senior citizens for activities ranging from simple nutrition lessons to making preemie outfits and baby quilts together for at-risk babies in a local hospital. Community service is a requirement of all Pitman High School Family and Consumer Sciences classes Students learn they can make real contributions. The program combines their energy with community service for the benefit of both the students and the community. Because of its success rate, this program is highly visible within the community.

In 1991, the existing Family and Consumer Sciences program at Pitman High School was evaluated and found to be deficient relative to meeting the educational goals as established by the Pitman Board of Education. Specifically, the district's educational goals state that it shall assist all students in developing self-realization through the educational program. Self-worth, self-discipline, respect and understanding of others, awareness of social and civic responsibility, and ethical use of leisure time are emphasized (Pitman Public Schools Educational Goals Statement).

In that year, 47 of 463 students enrolled at Pitman High School elected to take Family and Consumer Sciences classes. A survey of these 47 students was conducted at the beginning of the 199192 school year to evaluate self-esteem; the test made use of both closed statements and open-ended questions. Upon review of test results, it was determined that 87% of the students had low self-esteem. After extensive research, the following objectives for Family and Consumer Sciences classes were developed as a means to attain these educational goals:

To build student confidence, selfesteem, and a sense of responsibility toward others.

To develop an awareness in elementary and high school students of the importance of community service and the impact they can have by their service.

To develop a sense of unity within the various age groups by working for a common goal.

Thus, "Cross-Age Teaching + Community Service = Enhanced Self-Esteem" was developed.

Method

Cross-age teaching and community service were the avenues researched for this project. Financing was successfully achieved via two Carl D. Perkins grants for $50,000 and $30,000, respectively.

Cross-age teaching is the planning and interacting between two or more different age groups. Various studies indicate this method of teaching gives students a sense of pride and responsibility and enhances self-esteem (Clemens, 1991; MacKenzie & Arbor, 1979; Webb & Schwartz, 1988). A similar study by Adams (1993) found increased selfesteem results specifically from intergenerational cross-age teaching.

The program developed at Pitman High School allows students and senior citizens to interact with one another. Many students in the grouping did not have older or younger siblings or grandparents. Likewise, many of the senior citizens did not have grandchildren living nearby. Conyers (1996) stated that when senior citizens and students come together, both age groups benefit. The interaction exposes those involved to different ideas and experiences. Webb and Schwartz (1988) found that through cross-age teaching, students gain a better comprehension of and respect for diversity.

Cross-age teaching can also foster the altering of misconceptions. In interviews prior to the project, students in general felt senior citizens had nothing in common with them. Senior citizens felt "youngsters" only played loud music and had no respect for adults. Through intergenerational projects, students begin to view senior citizens in a much more positive light (MacKenzie & Arbor, 1979).

Community service teaches students through serving a need within the community and can be used as an educational instrument by connecting those needs to the curriculum (National and Community Service Act of 1990, 1991). …

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