Who Needs a Fireman?

I was discussing with one person the idea of older adults being seen as a resource for encouragement of younger members of the community. She works for a philanthropic cause which helped a project get off the ground. The project involves firemen and firewomen going into primary schools in areas where they have a tendency to use the service quite a lot and spending time with the children.
What is innovative is that they read to the children, help them with work and play with them in dressing up scenarios where child-sized uniforms and play hoses and rescue equipment is used. This hybrid multi-disciplinary approach seems to be paying dividends for obvious reasons – and ticks certain other boxes for some of the school staff!
It got me thinking about the generic model at play here. The use of an older, experienced adult, different from the regular teaching staff, with a free remit to develop activities with the children, is worth an extra glance. Substitute firefighter with accountant, bricklayer, librarian, shop assistant or any manner of occupation, and there might be a rich context for play. Indeed, any role played in life by an adult could provide the basis for similar hybrid activity. Why? Well it enables the adult to be themselves and to base their direction within their own comfort zone.
In order to allow his to happen, certain controls over classroom activity will need relaxing, especially any concept of Learning Objectives. But, allowing a more ‘open’ approach may reap more creative results by enabling children to benefit from other people being themsleves rather than playing a role.
This is an opportunity for informal education within the formal context. Older adults have an enormous amount to offer, and we are perhaps missing an opportunity to exploit an underused resource. What’s more, the benefits are bi-directional. I can vouch for this as some of the most fruitful educational experiences I ever gave my pupils when I used to teach were because we were allowed, in those days, to simply bring anyone we felt appropriate to spend time with the pupils.
Helping out visiting a class in school will be one of my “Community Giveback¬©” choices that adults can offer in payment for Lifelong Learning when I become Primeminister.