The Learning for Life™ Academy

A learning community for adults with cognitive challenges

Learning for Life™ is a learning community where students and teachers develop curricula cooperatively and tailor the learning experiences to each individual, inspired by the programs at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, the global Roads Scholar program for elders, and Montessori Schools around the world. 

The scholar-developed curricula change periodically as the subject matter is sufficiently explored and discussed. Scholarship takes the form of:

  • Reading and discussing published articles
  • Presentations and discussions with Visiting Lecturers from local universities and subject experts from surrounding communities
  • Site visits to community institutions reflecting the curriculum such as the planetarium when studying the space program and a local butterfly museum when studying metamorphosis
  • Online learning material identified in advance by the facilitator

Learning for Life™ is evidence-based. Best-practice approaches are drawn from several well-developed conceptual and theoretical traditions in which Directors of Learning are trained. These include the I’m Still Here® approach to communication, structuring time, and design of the classroom, Montessori approaches to the organization of learning modules and the prepared learning environment, and Learning Community approaches as practiced in open- structure learning settings like Hampshire College.

The goal of Learning for Life™ is to provide adults with early-stage dementia a meaningful life worth living through learning.  Specific objectives include:

  • Engagement
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-definition
  • Continued learning
  • Feeling there is a place to go where they belong
  • Permission to be vulnerable
  • Social support

Having a role—being a “Learning for Life™ scholar”—that others recognize

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Implementation & Training

The certification training program provides instruction in the following foundational topics:

  • Successful methodology for conducting focus groups with potential participants to discover their interests, desires, and needs
  • The use of resident life stories and skills assessments to create personalized programming
  • The role of the Learning for Life™   Director of Learning
  • The use of skills-based techniques including Montessori learning philosophies, templates, and visual cues to adapt learning experiences
  • Strategies for creating meaningful social roles and ownership for the scholars within the program
  • Best-practice invitation and communication techniques that lead to higher levels of participation
  • Staff mentoring: pilot / co-pilot approach
  • Problem solving common challenges

Implementation is typically conducted over a six-month period.  The deliverables include planning and set up of physical spaces, training for the Director of Learning in all areas of the I’m Still Here® approach, six on-site embedding visits, program support, and curriculum development.

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