A Bridge Theme
A few of my seniors looked a little perplexed when I told them we were doing a bridge theme. It's wasn't exactly obvious what discussions or activities we might have.
It was slim pickings for props, but I managed to dig up a few. I swiped the bridge bookends from the hall table and the Brio train bridge from storage. I borrowed the Golden Gate souvenir bridge from my son's childhood collection... and a few miniature bridges from who knows where.
There are a few world travelers in the four groups of seniors I gather with, but there are just as many who have never left the state. However, all seemed to know a little something about the Golden Gate Bridge and The Brooklyn Bridge. I played a recording of Frank Sinatra singing "The Brooklyn Bridge" and many recognized the Crooner's voice. But none of us remembered the song.
Sinatra - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgN79lEa1dQ
Kids and Bridges
We all had a good time fumbling to remember different versions of London Bridge and how we used to play it. I asked if any remembered a children's story about a troll who lived under a bridge. This child's drawing helped bring the story of "Three Billy Goats Gruff" back to us. The idea of trolls under the bridge made us start thinking about what other things you might find under bridges. Besides water, we thought of train tracks and highways, swamp, dry creeks and sadly, we thought of people living under bridges.
What's Scary About Bridges
Without getting into the gloomy roles bridges play with sad people, we did get off on a tangent about the things that make people afraid of bridges. We talked about how icy or dark bridges can be worrisome, or extra high or busy bridges. We had one person in my first group who had a real fear of all bridges. Betty who lived in Michigan described the beauty of the Mackinac Bridge and how there were some who were too scared to drive across. She remembered seeing a sign with an emergency number for those unable to cross. We wondered if they still had that option.
Most Beautiful or Romantic... Most Interesting or Most Unusual...
It was fun to hear all the different ideas of what made a bridge beautiful. We liked the idea of viewing an illuminated bridge at night. We also talked about romantic European bridges and the idea of a wedding proposal on a bridge. A few recalled the book/movie, Bridges of Madison County and the beauty of the old covered bridges. We talked about the curious history of castles with draw bridges over moats, as well as modern draw bridges that still operate today.
Then it was time to test our own bridge making skills. I wasn't sure how this vague activity would turn out, but I'm always searching for something to occupy the hands, so conversation can flow. So onto the quilt I scattered some cardboard, blocks and spools and invited the group to see how many different ways they could make bridges.
Since I have such a variety of folks in my groups, I had to be careful not to insult my engineers with a silly building game or to stress others who might have memory or physical limitations. For that reason, I used a little music to bridge the gap. As we worked, a playlist of "bridge music" added a little something extra. Sinatra crooned while we stacked boards on spools. A few whistled and playfully marched along with "Bridge Over the River Kwai". I wasn't sure whether I should let "Bridge Over Troubled Water" play since I thought it might drag down the good spirits. But suddenly it came on and Ken started to sing along while he worked. It surprised and touched me, so we let it play.
We finished up and had a good time pointing out all our different creative approaches to covering all our "bodies of water" on the table. Dorothy got the prize for most decorative building with colored popsicle sticks. As we sat back to take in the colorful display, I threw out a couple phrases to ponder as a group.
What does it mean when someone says,
"That's all just water under the bridge." ?
"Bridging the Gap"
We talked gaps between cultures and generations and the importance of bridging those gaps. But we also talked of the problems that happen when real physical bridges are built, bringing areas together that are used to being separate. What problems can occur?
With each phrase, I saw heads nod with recognition. So many recalled hearing those words and giving the advice themselves.
What I learned:
Once again I found out how a theme can connect people in a group. The theme hardly matters, it's just a tool that allows us to open up and find out what we have in common. How fun that our theme was about bridges, which are all about connecting... and that we ended up connecting with each other through the use of that very theme! And now that I notice this photo, it looks like we were pretty good at bridge building on the table and above the table, as well!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.