Intergenerational practice has seen a growth in popularity in recent years due to societal changes and in an aim to reconnect the generations (Vanderven, 2011; Vieira and Sousa, 2016). Although Knight et al. (2014) noted a lack of reciprocity in such activity due to the focus being upon one age group over another, new dimensions continue to develop. Mannion (2016, p.11) recognises that non-familial activity in relation to ‘education and learning’ is becoming more prevalent while Bratianu and Orzea (2012, p.610) suggest that designing interventions in order to ‘stimulate knowledge transfer and intergenerational learning’ is preferred.
Working in a participatory way, early years practitioners and a university lecturer formed a Research Circle through which they planned and carried out a research project based upon their usual practice to determine how older adults and young children interact, how knowledge is exchanged between them and what benefits there may be from such activity.
This intergenerational project was conducted in an informal outdoor place, an urban Forest School environment, with which the practitioners and young children were familiar. Older adults, who were not known to the children, were recruited to participate.
Data analysis identified four main ways that the participation occurred: affective participation, collaborative participation, learning through intergenerational participation and challenging participation. The non-formal place where the research was based, afforded a relaxed atmosphere. Then, when motivated older adults and young children were brought together, respectful trusting relationships built. This trust was key for reciprocity in opportunities for learning and challenge.