Kindergarten class takes weekly field trips to retirement home

NILES, Mich. (WNDU) - Every Monday, the kindergarten students from Eastside Connections School travel to Woodland Terrace Retirement Home for a day of learning, playing and lots of smiles. It isn't their usual classroom, but it's their favorite day of the week.

"This is how children learn best, by being out in the community and by doing," said Bonnie Prenkert, a teacher at Eastside Connection School who started the program. "I believe in project-based learning with all my heart."

She decided to launch the program after recognizing just how much these young minds could learn from those with so much wisdom to share.

"First of all, they learn compassion and they learn empathy," Prenkert said.

"I like eating lunch with the residents," 5-year old Hannah Patterson said.

Christopher Dayhuff, a fellow student, agreed, saying, "I like how we sit and eat with the residents."

The students aren't the only ones who love the program.

"I had 20 years in the Niles School Systems and I worked in elementary schools, and I learned to love the little kids," said Frances Burton, a resident at the facility.

She loves when the children visit, and she teaches them important life lessons.

"To respect their elders and enjoy spending time with us," Burton added. "That's important too."

The only hurdle the program has faced is finding funding for transportation. This year, the parents of the students decided to pay for the transportation because they believe in the program so much.

The school hopes to hold a fundraiser soon to continue this incredible friendship for years to come.