A love of crafting and spending time talking have made Long Hill School third graders and Wesley Village residents into fast friends.

One third grade class takes a field trip - actually just a walk across the street - to Wesley Village once a month for the get togethers, which feature the children pairing with a resident and making a craft. The trips began in October, and Long Hill School Principal Andrea D’Aiuto says they will continue indefinitely.

"For us, this is a no-brainer,” said D’Aiuto. “The kids love it, so do the residents.”

D’Aiuto said these meetings foster a sense of community and “lets our kids have a chance to give back to the community as well as have experiences they may not have in their everyday lives.”

Since Long Hill School second graders and fourth graders annually visit Wesley Village to sing during the school year, D’Aiuto said using the third-grade classes for the monthly visits was the perfect choice.

“This is fabulous for the kids,” said third grade teacher Barbara Persico, whose class visited in November. “The kids jumped right in, paired with a resident from the community and they took over. We visited the memory care unit, so there are some limitations for the residents, but the kids made up for that, which was incredible.”

Andrea Hyde, the Wesley Village lifestyle transitions activity director, reached out to Long Hill School and was able to coordinate this program with the third grade classes. The seniors and students created jack-o’-lanterns in October, cornucopias in November and snow globes at the Dec. 4 gathering.

“It has been a tremendous success,” said Wesley Heights Director of Lifestyle Transitions Monika Westerdal.

Westerdal said while visits with the children provide residents with a connection to the greater community, it has also been shown that it can increase residents’ self-esteem.

“Our residents look forward to their monthly visits and programs,” said Westerdal. “They get to enjoy one-on-one time with the children, and they love watching the children have fun. It also provides a great opportunity for the kids to learn about seniors, the aging process, and help reduce any stigmas they may have about growing old.”

Persico said watching her students with the seniors nearly brought her to tears.

“It struck me because I have a mother in a memory care unit,” said Persico. “Seeing the residents interacting the kids, the kids interacting with the residents is such a positive experience for everybody. The kids are proud of what they helped the residents create. The residents just loved seeing the kids.”

Persico said you could see in the residents’ eyes that having the children visit brightened their day.

“We always teach that kindness matters, but I think it hits a whole different level once you have kids begin interacting with others in the community outside the four walls of the school,” said D’Aiuto. “This teaches them that kindness can happen anywhere. The kids are so proud of themselves. It just warms my heart.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com