By DAVID PEPIN
Fourth-graders at Eldredge Elementary School may have heard a few stories from their “Senior Buddies” at Greenwich Bay Manor about the old days, when household tasks required more labor than simply pushing a button or manipulating handheld electronic gadgets.
In that spirit, students showed their elder pals their inventive side recently on their final visit of the 2011-12 school year to the senior residence.
Demonstrating homemade inventions that ranged from an aluminum can-crushing device to a waste disposal unit made from a cat litter box and orange juice containers, the Grade 4 classes of Kara Ratigan and Renee Hadfield delighted and amazed their audience.
Then again, the students, seniors and teachers have been amazed by the connections they’ve made during the two-year-old program.
“It doesn’t end with the end of the school year. Our kids have come to visit their buddies during the summer and stayed in touch with them,” said Ratigan.
“It just gets better and better each year,” said Linda Garzone, Greenwich Bay program manager. “Each year I ask for volunteers, and we get about 20 participating.”
Earlier this year, students interviewed their senior friends and wrote articles about them, which have been compiled into a book, “A Salute to Our Seniors,” which also includes photos of the seniors and students together..
The season’s activities were capped off last Thursday, when the seniors came to Eldredge to see “Update Earth,” a play students are wrote and performed about recycling, its history and its future.
The students’ inventions ranged from the practical to the fanciful.
Shon Cuthill, with the help of Ratigan, displayed a ceiling light bulb changer. With a suction cup glued to a metal mount on a bamboo pole, it enables one to unscrew a light bulb and replace it without having to use a chair or stepladder.
“My mom is short and can’t change a lightbulb on a ceiling,” he said.
Thomas Kitchell displayed what he calls the “Cleaninator,” in which a sponge is attached to a tissue box and pulled along on milk bottlecap wheels with toothpick axles. The miniature Red Sox helmet atop the box is not just for show, he said.
“It was tipping over, so I had to put batteries on top of it to weigh it down,” he said.
Joanna Jarrell played a homemade musical instrument made of three glass and two plastic bottles taped together.
“When I blow into them, they make different sounds depending on the different levels of water,” she said.
Eileen Crowley, one of the participating seniors, said the visits from the students and her new friend are always welcome.
“The second time the kids were here this year, Olivia (her interviewer) came running up to me with a dandilion. She just said, ‘You said you liked flowers,’” Crowley remembered.
Bill Round, another “Buddy,” enjoyed the play, which included several song and dance numbers and a slide show of the year’s activities.
“I hope the kids learned something about recycling, because we screwed it up,” he said.