Greencastle residents and local students practice origami.

At Greencastle of Barrington (Ill.) — an Embrace Living Communities affordable older adult community — residents participate in many intergenerational and community programs. But none are as unique as its current partnership with the Barrington Chinese Immersion Council (BCIC). Over the course of the summer months, the BCIC Chinese Culture Club is meeting at Greencastle, and students in the program are using the opportunity to get to know some of Greencastle’s residents.

BCIC is a nonprofit created in 2014 to support students and families involved in the local school district’s Chinese Immersion Program. The program began with a group a first graders in 2011 and by the time those students reach their senior year in high school, the program will be fully implemented throughout the school district. Greencastle has been a partner with BCIC since 2018.

“The BCIC Chinese Culture Club is a series of multigenerational learning experiences sharing Chinese [Mandarin] language and culture between Chinese Immersion families and Greencastle residents,” says Sue Hulet, Greencastle of Barrington’s social service coordinator. “The summer club — developed by Sylvia (Qi) Teng, a local Chinese instructor and parent of a CI student — offers approximately 10 different classes featuring Chinese arts and culture, including origami, calligraphy, painting, singing, and chanting. Mrs. Teng reached out to artisans and instructors in the Chinese community to offer a wide range of activities.”

The summer program takes place in Greencastle’s community room twice a month. Activities include Chinese origami, tai chi, performing arts, cooking, calligraphy, poetry and music appreciation, painting, reading, and chanting, with Greencastle residents assisting the students in the activities.

Origami is a student favorite.

“The Culture Club is a wonderful opportunity for Chinese immersion students to use their Chinese language skills to benefit others in their community,” Hulet says. “It is also an opportunity for the students to practice their Chinese conversation skills throughout the summer. Likewise, the Culture Club provides a valuable opportunity for Greencastle residents to share their knowledge of Chinese language and culture.”

This year, BCIC and Greencastle have offered Mandarin Bingo and a presentation of Chinese speeches by Barrington students. Including Greencastle residents in the program allows them “to enrich the students’ experience in the program by drawing on the wisdom and expertise of Greencastle residents,” says Hulet. It also provides “an opportunity for Greencastle residents to share their talents and skills while participating in activities they enjoy with the students and families.”

So far, the students have enjoyed origami and Mandarin Bingo the most.

BCIC is just one of several intergenerational programs at Greencastle. The school district’s “Team STEM for All” students help residents with technological questions, and several other schools hold musical presentations and holiday parties.

“Several students from different schools come and volunteer with all of our residents,” Hulet says, and the residents enjoy the interaction.

Particularly in these days of families relocating, often far from their original homes, such programs as the Chinese Culture Club become increasingly important. Says Hulet, “As more generations of families are separated geographically, the partnership between Greencastle of Barrington and BCIC allows elderly residents and children to spend time learning, playing, and growing together.”