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Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Songs Reflections - Gibraltar School

I would like to thank you again for such a fantastic program. The Elders' Wisdom, Children's Song program was an exciting, engaging and heartwarming experience for our students, teachers and families.

Many community members, school faculty and parents have let me know that they really loved the community celebration. I have had comments such as "This blew me away I was not sure what to expect but this was wonderful. The show was so professionally done, so touching and powerful. This was by far the best show I have ever been to, I really enjoyed it."

Here is something I wrote on what I observed with the student in grade 5 who was adopted and moved here from Poland and started school on the first day of songwriting.

On the first day of the songwriting phase of the Elders' Wisdom, Children's Songs program with Larry Long our school welcomed a new student who had recently been adopted from a foreign country.

Speaking very little English made this transition a challenge for the student and the school staff. During the first songwriting workshop he sat with a group of classmates who where reading the transcript from the elder's interview. He tuned out with a blank and frustrated look on his face, overwhelmed by the full page of foreign writing. On the second day the students would write a lyric with Mr. Long and then sing it a few times to decide if it worked in the song, The students began to incorporate movements and the song came to life. By the end of the third day the student from Poland was smiling, singing, doing the song motions and having fun. The music really created a bridge for this student to cross over from a place of isolation and frustration to a place where he could participate and enjoy learning with his new classmates. On the day of the community celebration he sang the entire song with his classmates on stage in honor of the elder. Music is truly a universal language.

Here are a few other thoughts I had on the program:

The song lyrics do not simply tell the story of the elder’s life but they infuse their wisdom. By writing, singing, creating motions and rehearsing for the performance the wisdom of the elders becomes ingrained in the children. It is an incredible experience to walk down the halls of our school and hear students singing amongst themselves the wisdom of their elders such as "Be honest with yourself, not only with someone else; when you treat your children right, they in turn give you life; always work hard, always dream.” From interviewing, songwriting, rehearsing and performing these songs the students learned a lot about local history and our community. The students experienced the elder's life stories in the interview process, they reflected on this experience during the songwriting sessions and they shared the wisdom with the community in the performance. Students gained an understanding of what it was like for people to move across the ocean and settle in an area that was foreign to them. They learned the effects that different circumstances, opportunities and choices have on one's life. They learned the similarities and differences between the elder's life and their own.

As a program administrator I was very pleased with the outcomes of this program. Students fully participated and I saw many transformations throughout the duration of the program. Students went from questioning why they were interviewing elders to whole heartedly singing the wisdom they experienced from the elders. Students who typically do not volunteer to read aloud and even students who are receiving additional help with speech volunteered to read the narrative of the elder's life on stage for an audience of hundreds. From when the students shook the elder's hand after their interview question on the first day to the night of the community performance the student's interaction with the elders greatly changed. Their interaction with the elders went from many tentative, weak handshakes and wondering eyes on the interview day to firm grip handshakes with direct eye contact and genuine thanks for the elders on the night of the community celebration. The students shined with this program. They were excited to participate and thrilled to sing the songs they had created in honor of the elders.

By taking the time to really listen, read and create songs from the interview transcripts students experienced elder's wisdom. This experience and the songs will be forever in the minds of these students. The songs were fun to sing and are the kind of songs you feel great knowing are stuck in your children’s head.

News & Events

Cashton, WI - 8th Grade Leadership will host a Cashton Community Celebration in honor of Mrs. Marian Sullivan Schwarz’s 104th Birthday at the Cashton Community Hall on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM.  

Community Celebration of Place is partnering with Little Free Library on Saturday, May 21, in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the first-ever Little Free Library Festival.

Join highly acclaimed author Kent Nerburn and Larry Long, Executive Director of Community Celebration of Palce for an evening of songs, stories and music.

Save Our History!

During 2017-2018, it is a primary program of Community Celebration of Place to transfer their collection into archives that will be open to the public for generations to come

We can not do this work without you.


My heartfelt thanks to Larry Long and all the voices from which our history continues to generate encouragement, enthusiasm and wisdom.

Arlo Guthrie, Songwriter, Son of Woody Guthrie

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