Facilitating Intergenerational Exchange in an Outdoor Education Program

Overview:  The following are activities with a series of questions about the environment designed for an intergenerational group of people participating in an outdoor school program.  For each activity, participants are asked Discussion Stimulator questions designed to reinforce and extend the learning and discussion that takes place.  A facilitator is on hand to ask the Discussion Stimulator question and encourage participants to share their views, experience, and knowledge while answering these questions.

Objectives:  Participants will learn what people of other generations think and know about the natural environment.

Participants:  Children/youth (grades 4-12) and older adults.

Skills:  Discussing, Observing, Comparing and Contrasting, Organizing Information.

Material:  Scratch paper and pencil (optional).

Time Considerations:  10-20 minutes for each question.

1. Discovery Walk

Discussion Stimulator Questions:

  • How many kinds of animals did you see today during the Discovery Walk?  Any deer, fox, butterfly, bears, etc?
  • Where we able to see more kinds of animals in the wild 50 years ago?

Guidelines for Facilitators (to further stimulate dialogue)

  • Ask the children to look for animals in the woods at the beginning of the trip, and ask them the questions at the end
  • The purpose is to encourage the children to become more aware and appreciative of what has been lost.

2. Lesson of Cycles

Discussion Stimulator Questions:

  • A team of scientists has developed a chemical compound that can remove pollution from water.  However, nobody knows how this new chemical will affect the frogs that inhabit the area.
  • Do you use the chemical?  Why or why not? 

Guidelines for Facilitators (to further stimulate dialogue)

  • Ask group members to give examples of how a new technology (or medicine, chemical, power source, etc.) was used prematurely - before people had a thorough understanding of its full impact, including undesirable side effects?
  • Ex:  (1) Pesticide runoff from farms polluted ground water; (2) In the 1920’s, dermatologist (skin doctor) used x-rays to treat acne.  It later turned out that the x-rays sometimes caused skin cancer; and (3) DDT harmed bald eagles.

3. Lesson of Resources

Discussion Stimulator Questions:

  • Imagine that someone is going to take either TV or cars out of the world.  If you had to live without one of them, which one would it be?

Guidelines for Facilitators (to further stimulate dialogue)

  • The purpose is to show children that people used to live without either one of them.  Ask the seniors to share how their life was.  We are using countless resources (i.e., electricity, water, woods) from the Earth everyday.  We should “reduce” and “reuse.”

4. Living Things

Discussion Stimulator Questions:

  • Whether an animal survives or not often depends on whether they are good “learners”.  For instance, young beavers learn what woods to eat by watching adult beavers.  Come up with an example of how the survival of young human beings depends on what they learn from adults?

Guidelines for Facilitators (to further stimulate dialogue)

  • Desired learning outcome:  increased appreciation of assets of older adults.

5. Visit to Masseyburg (a historical village in central PA)

Discussion Stimulator Questions:

  • Play “Liar’s Club” activity after a visit.  This activity gives the children some ideas about what life was like in the past.  (The “Liar’s Club” box is filled with actual artifacts from 50 to 90 years ago.)
  • Select an object from the box at one time.  The children and senior participants then take turns  coming up with ideas (and crazy stories) about how that object was used.  Participants then guess which person is revealing the real use of the artifact.

Guidelines for Facilitators (to further stimulate dialogue)

  • They’ve learned what life might have been like 150 years ago.  Now let’s move forward in time.  Let’s give the children some ideas about what life was like 50 to 90 years ago.

6. Community Meeting

Discussion Stimulator Questions:

  • Let’s say this environmental center decides to start a club for people who want to working on improving the environment.  They do things like study water quality and plant trees.  Who should be invited to join this club?  Children, youth, young adults, and/or senior adults?

Guidelines for Facilitators (to further stimulate dialogue)

The purpose is to show children that people of all ages are interested in and responsible for the environment.

Note: These activities and questions were developed as part of the Intergenerational Outdoor School program, conducted by Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center (SCEC) and Penn State Cooperative Extension.

Contact information:  Shih-Tsen (Nike) Liu,, (814) 863-7877, or Matt Kaplan,, (814) 863-7871.