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Preschool student Cianna Rivera, 5, and Claire Swanick, both of Manchester, paint a birdhouse at Easter Seals of New Hampshire in Manchester on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Birds & Binoculars

Birdhouse building bridges generation gap

MANCHESTER - A wide gap in generations has narrowed with ease on Fridays lately at the Easter Seals New Hampshire campus on Auburn Street.

A group of preschoolers and seniors from different Easter Seals day programs are bonding in the name of birds. The "Birds & Binoculars" program combines a little education, some arts and crafts and mostly interaction during the one-hour sessions over a five-week period.

The project Friday was painting several birdhouses, starting with a base coat of white before moving on to a more decorative look. The final results were an ensemble of color that could only come from young children.

The "Spitfires" - a name derived from a room in the child development area of Easter Seals - were most certainly spark plugs as they scurried around the room and offered some creative answers during a round of questions and answers as the first coat of paint dried.

"Do they have a rocking chair in there?" one child asked as the discussion turned to what a bird needs in a home.

"There would be one in mine," quipped Phil Jerauld, an 87-year-old who was one of five seniors taking part in the program.

Jerauld was joined by Jaxson Byrd, a 4-year-old who had his own ideas of what colors would appeal to birds in search of a home.

He started with blue, added a little red and a few other hues that led to a blend of pinks and purples coating the sides.

"That's already painted so let's put it on some places where it's still white," Jerauld said. "Now let's do the top. What color do you want to do there?"

Jaxson delivered another medley of colors that fit his earlier work on the sides.

"I'm many decades away from that age. All of my grandchildren are grown up," Jerauld said. "It's nice to mix with the very young ones. They're over eight decades away from me."

Across the table, Claire Swanick and a young girl named Cianna worked on their own birdhouse. Swanick had a quick response when asked what she enjoyed most about the last few Fridays.

"My little friend here," she said with Cianna close by her side.

Program director Bernadette Douzanis said Cianna was instantly drawn to Swanick from the first session and the two have been almost inseparable each week.

Once all the houses were painted, the Spitfires lined up and headed back to their room while the seniors stuck around for a few minutes, still smiling from the always unpredictable youngsters.

"It's so surprising what children tell you when they talk," said Millie Boisvert, also 87. "They understand very well, too. I admire those children and what they're doing. I think it's a good thing for them."

It's rewarding to the seniors as well, emotionally and physically, Douzanis said.

"I think the benefits of the social interaction between the generations is the best part. They gain an appreciation for each age group."

Douzanis said. "It's very uplifting to be around the kids."


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