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Matter of Life & Death

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Download Chapters 1 & 2 in PDF Form:

A Matter of Life and Death:
Addressing a Complex Topic
Appropriately with Children

Why would teachers take or teach a course about death, particularly as it is not explicitly included in the elementary curriculum?  Up until two years ago, we may not have considered even asking this question; however, in the wake of such global events as 9/11and the Asian earthquake/tsunami, educators are being pressed by the media, parents, and students to discuss death occurring on a massive scale.  As a result, we as teachers must be prepared to talk about the topic with those we teach.

Research shows that our appreciation of life is increased through our understanding of death.  That said, how do we approach this often 'taboo' subject in a sensitive and culturally appropriate manner? 

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Life & Death course in Mimico, October 2005

Vera Teschow, an elementary school teacher of seven years, ETFO Women’s Scholarship winner and Masters Graduate from OISE’s department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, set out to explore just this topic.  After completing a number of readings on the subject of thanatology (death education), Teschow eveloped, instructed and collected data from a series of classes in the fall of 2005.

Her five-part course for educators, youth workers, parents, clergy, and others was based on thanatologist Charles Corr's model, and wove in various aspects of the elementary school curriculum.  In addition, it included the use of appropriate instructional practices to facilitate participants delving into their own experiences, thoughts, and feelings about the end of life.  This was to assist them in becoming more confident and proactive in dealing with the topic of death.  Participants ideally left the course with a better understanding of their own ideas, as well as some major themes adopted by various world religions and philosophies.  Participants were also given many practical strategies including appropriate literature that they could use to facilitate an engaging discussion on the topic of life and death with young people.

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Teschow hopes this work will appeal to teachers not already comfortable with the idea of discussing death in the classroom or school setting.  These teachers may be curious in exploring this unconventional subject matter with colleagues in a professional and enjoyable environment.  Thanks to a partnership with Hogles Funeral Homes in Toronto and space donated by a local church, Teschow was able to offer the course free of charge for up to 30 applicants.  Ideally, participating in the program will put classroom teachers more at ease with the topic of death, so that they can be approachable resources for their students.   If you would like to order a complete copy of Vera's thesis, please send her an email by clicking the button at the bottom of this page.

Check out some great books related to the topic of life and death.

For more information about this course, 
please
contact me

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43 Central St.  Toronto, ON  M8V 2R6
Phone: (416) 992-8372
Email Vera a

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