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Seniors light up as McAnnulty Elementary students pay a visit

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:03 p.m.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
McAnnulty Elementary first-grader Chase Zalar, 6, left, plants flowers alongside Atria Senior Living resident Bernice Counts, 80, in Baldwin Borough.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Baldwin Borough Atria Senior Living resident Patricia Adams, 93, talks about planting flowers with McAnnulty Elementary first- grader Pawan Pokhrel, 7.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
McAnnulty Elementary first-grader Pawan Pokhrel, 7, discusses planting flowers with Atria Senior Living resident Patricia Adams, 93.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Haylee Marcione, 7, right, a first-grader at McAnnulty Elementary, shows off her newly potted flower to Baldwin Borough-based Atria Senior Living resident Bernice Counts, 80.

Patricia Adams grinned as she talked to the visiting young tykes about the flowers they were planting together.

“How old are you?” Adams asked a 7-year-old girl who skipped past her chair. “I'll bet you can't guess how old I am. I'm 93.”

Both the senior citizens residing at Atria Senior Living and students in Dawn McPaul's first-grade class at McAnnulty Elementary School enjoy the time they spend together during an intergenerational program that has brought the youngsters to the Baldwin Borough residence four times this school year.

The students brought hand-painted pots and prepared songs about nature to sing for the senior citizens on Monday, during their final visit of the school year, as the generations celebrated Earth Day together. Lowe's and Home Depot donated gift cards and supplies to help pay for the pots and plants.

“I really like it because we get to make the grandparents happy,” said first-[grader Gabrielle Plinta, 7.

McPaul has had her first-grade classes visit a senior citizens facility for the past five years. Prior to this year, the students visited the now-closed Ridgepointe Senior Living in Baldwin Borough.

“It's so important for children to have the experience of working with the older generation. Not all of them have grandparents that are still here,” McPaul said. “It provides a lifelong lesson of how to treat others. They get so much out of it.

“It's beyond what you can teach them in the textbook,” McPaul added.

For the residents at Atria, the visit from the students brightens their day, said engage life director Donna Canovali.

“It animates our residents to see young children in the building,” she said. “It brings them a lot of joy.”

Residents smile just watching the children walk around the room.

“The children, I love these children,” said Bernice Counts, 80. “We enjoy them so much.”

That feeling is mutual.

“We have a lot of fun here,” said first-grader Haylee Marcione, 7.

During the year, the Atria residents and students alike have formed attachments to one another, Canovali said. So much so, that the director is planning a picnic this summer for them to continue gathering.

“True friendships were developed. They know the residents by name. The residents know them by name,” Canovali said.

The students visited Atria this school year for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day and, this week, for Earth Day. Each time, they wore costumes, their best dresses or hand-crafted shirts and performed skits or songs for the senior citizens, McPaul said.

Both the students and senior citizens said they enjoyed learning about Earth Day and working together to make the world a little brighter by planting flowers.

As students entertained the senior citizens with musical performances of “America” and “This Old Earth,” the senior citizens sang along and waived their hands in the air.

The students gave a pink azalea plant to the senior citizens that will be planted on the Atria grounds on Route 51.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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