“We do not learn only from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience”


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“We do not learn only from experience … We learn from reflecting on experience.”
John Dewey was a philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer who believed humans learn through a “hands on” experiential approach.
In his thought-provoking article, Patrick Cole reminds us of five brilliant insights Dewey proposed over a century ago that are more than relevant today…
“Schools, according to Dewey, are not just places where we learn facts and numbers, but also places where we learn how to live.
In other words, the point is not just to learn a certain set of skills (though that helps as well) but rather to realize one’s full potential, and use what you’ve learned for the greater good.
How did we lose sight of this?”
#seniorsandteensempathyprogram #intergenerationalprograms #intergenerationalprogram #bringingcommunitybacktogether #stories4connection
🙏Jack Finnigan @jackofallstreets ( Unsplash for the wonderful pic)

STEP educating hearts as well as minds…


Youth off the Streets Bowen College students were back for more conversations and laughter at Bupa Aged Care Maroubra for Week 3 of STEP ( Seniors and Teens Empathy Program).

Students fed back that their first week last week together with the residents was  “exciting, fun, interesting and cool”, citing the top things they enjoyed ” hearing their stories” and “just hanging out together”

One of many highlight moments of Week 3 was when one of the students beckoned me over to say how cool it was that when she asked her buddy Elder one of the conversation starter questions

“Who is a person in history you admire most? ” she said the former female president of India ….. because she “made everyone look up to a woman”.

Not only are the residents teaching the students a thing or two about history and important role models  …. they are proving to be quite amazing role models in resilience themselves.

The Elders taking part from Bupa Maroubra are reporting back how wonderful it is to have the company of such “polite, lovely and very funny students”.


Generations apart brought “Together” at last through the power of stories

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I’ve written previously about how in Feb 2017 I attended a Rites Of Passage Leadership training that helped give me a great design structure for S.T.E.P ( Seniors and Teens Empathy Program) … well, while I was there, I also put together this simple little vision of my aim for the program to simply bring “Together” the young and old, their stories being the bridge that connects them.

I am so thrilled to report that today I finally got to introduce students from Maroubra’s Bowen College Youth off the Streets to some of the wonderful residents my own children and I have gotten to know over the past two years … yes, S.T.E.P has made it to Bupa Maroubra Junction! The TOGETHER I have been working towards for my own Maroubra community has lift-off.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about how it might go… Bupa Maroubra is a high care home and some students admitted when they arrived they were feeling a bit scared to be there –  it can be a confronting environment when you first walk in if you’ve never visited before…. but half an hour into it we had one student and  a resident speaking Greek together and others chatting about the old days when trams used to run to Coogee beach.

Once again, I’ve been blown away by being witness to the power that sharing stories has to connect the unlikeliest of people.  We all have our stories… and, though sometimes we may not know it, often, deep down, we all want to share them with someone.






STEP kicks off with Youth off the Streets Bowen College


A great introduction session yesterday with Youth Off the Streets Bowen College for their upcoming S.T.E.P ( Seniors and Teens Empathy Program) with Bupa Maroubra Aged Care.

Harvey & Eddie helped lighten things up by proving not all 84 plus-year-olds are what you’d imagine… it was good for a few laughs, watch their hilarious interview here
We also covered some of the more serious topics, often elephants in the room, like Dementia and… yes… even Death.
The students from Bowen College have their first meet up with their Elder buddies next week for a term long program of S.T.E.P that will involve games, activities and most importantly, sharing of their stories.
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Heart and Soul Story also ran an introduction session for residents taking part at Bupa Maroubra this afternoon, and they were equally interested to hear about the teens they will be meeting next week … they spent time reflecting on what life was like when they were and teen and talking about some of the challenges and opportunities teens have today.
All in all, a great day spent separately getting Teens and Seniors to look through each other’s eyes … but the real richness starts next week when they start their journey together.
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Our brains are wired for story….

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It should come as no surprise if you have sat through a bulleted “death by powerpoint meeting”, that Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has replaced powerpoint presentations with narrative memos at Amazon.

What is surprising is that it’s taken us this long to realise we need to go back to basics.

What would you prefer … someone, to intrigue you with the story about what’s happening in the picture of Rosa Parks, or provide you with a list of historical bullet points?

As Carmin Gallo reminds us;

Narrative storytelling might not have been as critical for our survival as a species as food–but it comes close. Anthropologists say that when humans gained control of fire, it marked a major milestone in human development. Our ancestors were able to cook food, which was a big plus.

But it also had a second benefit.

People sat around campfires swapping stories. Stories served as instruction, warning, and inspiration.

Stories are persuasive… they inform, illuminate and inspire. Neuroscientists have found that emotion is the fastest path to the brain. In other words, if you want your ideas to spread, story is the single best vehicle we have to transfer that idea to another person.

We knew it back in the days of sitting around campfires, it’s good to see the richest man in the world has figured it out too ….

Read the rest of Carmin’s article here and next time you feel tempted to use bullet points, remember…

Bullet points on a slide, don’t inspire.

Stories that convey heart and soul, do

The two way street of Intergenerational programs …


…. understanding from STEP Teens helps alleviate fears of the Elderly

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Some of the benefits to our youth of an intergenerational program like STEP were relayed by our lovely Teen participants from last year Amy and Imogen telling us they had more confidence to make new friends and felt gratitude for living in a day and age where they have such incredible opportunties as young women …

It’s important to hear about what the program meant to some of the amazing women at the other end of their lives. Today we hear from Margaret, who was taken by how easy and delightful it was to chat with such vibrant teens. The beneficial effect of the weekly conversations with her buddy, Immy, is evident as she tells us how she now finds it now not so scary to talk with other young girls the same age now given the understanding shown to her by the teens.
The studied benefits of intergeneratonal programs are numerous, you can go hear to The Senior Care Blog  to read more, however, sometimes it’s what really hits home is to hear it first hand from those taking part, so I’d encourage you to take the less then a minute to hear what Mararget had to say.



Youth, off the Streets …. and soon to be visiting their community Elders

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Heart and Soul Story was privileged to be present at the launch of Youth Off the Streets Bowen College in Maroubra today, and hear how well the current students are doing there.

Bowen College is one of Youth off the Street’s four accredited high schools dedicated to providing tailored and focused education for students who may be at risk of falling behind in mainstream schooling. Bowen Campus offers a curriculum catering for students’ academic, psychological and vocational needs

According to Marc Freedman, Fostering Intergenerational relationships for at-risk youth 

Many at-risk youth are growing up isolated from the range of caring and consistent adult relationships so important for navigating the treacherous course from adolescence to adulthood. An accumulation of research from the social sciences suggests that adult relationships — provided not only by parents, but by grandparents, neighbours and other interested elders — are a common factor among resilient children, who achieve success despite growing up under disadvantaged and stressful circumstances. ”

Marc’s goes on to cite a study from Philidelphia that looked at five intergenerational initiatives and aimed to provide a better understanding of what really happens when elders and at-risk youth are brought together. Amongst others, key findings were;

  • Bonds between Elders and youth will form in social programs structured for that purpose
  • Despite a sharply age-segregated society, participants in most cases were able to forge powerful attachments
  • These relationships appear to help change the life trajectory of the youth .. from one headed for failure to a more adaptive path of survival.
  • Elders interviewed found they were provided with a challenge of helping youth change their lives. The Elders also felt a special empathy that appears to derive from the marginal status shared by elders and youth in society.

Perhaps one of the study’s most striking findings is that the most effective elders were individuals who had not lived what would commonly be considered “successful” lives. Many had endured strained family relationships, struggled at low-paying jobs, and battled personal problems, such as alcohol abuse. Partly as a result of surviving–and surmounting–such difficulties, these elders seemed to understand the youth, were able to use their own experience as real-world teaching tools, and speak the language of their young partners.

Heart and Soul Story will be working closely with the amazing and committed team at Youth off the Streets Bowen College to develop the Seniors and Teens Empathy Program (STEP) to best fit the needs of the teens of Bowen and the Aged Care residents of Bupa Aged Care Maroubra.  in the hope we can report similar results in the not too distant future.

The dreams that you dare to dream, really can come true …

I’d love to see the result of a collaborative effort between the likes of Melbourne base ThomsonAdsett who are leading the way in Aged Care design in Australia and architect Takaharu Tezuka, who has designed this incredible space for children in Tokyo (that allows for freedom, increased outdoor activity, open plan to foster social interaction, trees for climbing)   

Just imagine an intergenerational facility full of life and soul that their combined creative brains could come up with???

Sometimes the people who dare dream, do make those dreams a reality  #Intergenerationaldesign #bringingcommunitybacktogether 

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Thank You Awesome Foundation!

Still reeling from shock that I won!

My heartfelt thanks to Awesome Foundation Sydney for the opportunity to pitch my idea for STEP (Seniors and Teens Empathy Program) last night and the incredible effort you all go to, to give community-based projects a much needed helping hand.

Thanks to all those last night who believed in the vision of what I am doing!

I was honoured to stand alongside 4 amazing women, each with incredible community projects including Taboo TalkAttitude Foundation LimitedCook For Life Foundation Jewelz A Hoopz – check them out… they rock, and I am already thinking about a collaborative program bonanza that the Seniors and Teens will love ! All in time ….

A special shout out and thanks also to Kids Giving Back Co Founder Ruth Tofler-Riesel for your constant belief and support, help recruiting the teens for the pilot, and introduction to Youth Off The Streets Bowen College Maroubra who will be the next teens to take part in STEP Bupa Australia Aged Care Maroubra.

I’ll keep you all posted on how it goes!

Connecting our brains (and hearts) through story sharing

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 A neuroscience study by a team of scientists at Princeton may help explain why telling stories builds empathy and also why, when you tell a good one, people act as if they’re watching it unfold before them.
Joshua Gowin Ph.D. ( who earned his doctorate in behavioral neuroscience from the University of Texas for his work on the cycle of violence and the processes in the brain that may underlie it.) explore this and more interesting insights in his article about why sharing stories brings people together.
 When you tell a story to a friend, you can transfer experiences directly to their brain.  They feel what you feel.  They empathize.  What’s more, when communicating most effectively, you can get a group of people’s brains to synchronize their activity.  As you relate someone’s desires through a story, they become the desires of the audience.
When you hear a good story, you develop empathy with the teller because you experience the events for yourself….This makes sense.
Stories should be powerful. They helped us share information long ago, before we had a written language and Wikipedia.”
Read Joshua’s article on why sharing stories brings people closer together here
Imagine how much more empathy we can create in our community if we look for new and innovative ways to bring people together to share their stories … or a campfire and story circle worked for thousands of years, perhaps rather than innovate, we look to our own indigenous history for what worked
“As Aboriginal people, we have always told stories about our lives, and we know how important it is for people to be connected to their own stories, the stories of their family, their people, their history. The stories are a source of pride. When people become disconnected from them, life can be much harder to live.” 
David Clark, Founder Sharing Culture Initiative