#960 – Dick Bernard: A Very Good Morning at S.P.I.F.F.

Last Friday we volunteered for one of those “you’ll have to guess” kinds of assignments. Daughter Joni, Principal at Somerset Elementary in Mendota Heights, asked if we’d be interested in participating in something called “SPIFF” with second graders at the school.
“Sure. Why not?” And we headed to an uncertain assignment.
We signed in, and come 9 a.m. second grade teacher Mr. Messicci, originator of SPIFF 25 years ago, began the process of “matching pals”, each of we older folks matched with one of 73 second graders at the school.
A very polite young man, Andrew, was matched with me. Andrew was dressed up in vest and tie and blue shirt. Later we agreed we liked the color blue, and vegetables and so on…. To my knowledge, the morning started with all of us as strangers to each other. We weren’t strangers for long. One elder, one youngster.
It was the beginning of a most wonderful two hours, which opened with the Pledge of Allegiance (my Andrew was one of the six students chosen to bring the American flags in procession to the front of the room), then we all sang “What a Wonderful World”, and later many other fun songs.
Group program over, we were all escorted to our Pals classroom, and spent another hour doing activities together. Each child had a variety of activities from which to choose. Andrew and I did some Tic Tac Toe, some reading, some mazes, etc. The time flew by. We ended with cookies and juice.
The students were obviously very well prepared by the three classroom teachers in charge. Of course, there is a 25 year old track record, but each year it is a new event for new participants.
The tone was set by the text on the program booklet we all received (below).
Inside was a brief explanation of the program:
“The best classroom in the world is at
the feet of an elderly person.”
Andy Rooney
We believe there is a great value for young people in having an older person’s outlook, wisdom, concern, and friendship. Older adults also benefit by rediscovering the curiosity and enthusiasm fo young people and seeing first-hand what’s happening in education today.
The goal of The S.P.I.F.F. Society is to promote intergenerational relationships and provide both students and older adults with rich, long-lasting experiences. We hope to dispel stereotypes, increase understanding, share perspectives, and foster friendships.
We gratefully acknowledge: 3M C.A.R.E.S., St. Stephen’s Church, DARTS, great older adults, and wonderful students.
Mrs. Kirchenwitz, Mr. Messicci, Mrs. Rall, Somerset Second Grade Teachers.”

We “are asked to print or type at least one letter or postcard” to our pal. (Second grade is early in the reading careers of most students.) In turn, our pal “will write three letters” to us “from November through May.”
Our assignments are not yet finished: One day in December we’ll do Caroling with the kids, and once each month through the rest of the year there will be an hour of some specific fun activity.
We’re glad we volunteered.
Perhaps this is an idea to be shared with your local school.
from Donna:
This sounds like a great program. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in preparing for the next test that we forget to do meaningful education for life. Would love to know more about it.

2 replies
  1. dthoferngmail.com
    dthoferngmail.com says:

    You know, Dick, as a former educator, you should be ashamed of yourself. Here you are wasting the time of poor little Andrew with such rubbish as singing, playing games, eating cookies and generally enjoying school when he could be spending that time doing critical test-prep drills. If the test score results at Somerset aren’t up to snuff it will be on your conscience.


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