Music and Arts in Health Promotion and Death Education: The St Christopher’s Schools Project
The reality of death and dying is rarely discussed openly in modern Western societies, while death sometimes is even considered to be a ‘failure’ in the context of traditional, medically-focused healthcare systems. Similarly, loss and transition are part of the National School Curriculum in the UK, but many schools still find approaching these subjects difficult. In this context St Christopher’s hospice in London has initiated and delivered the ‘Schools Project’ since 2005.
The St Christopher’s Schools Project is an innovative community arts programme. It takes the form of short-term collaborative arts projects between terminally ill patients and students from primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges within the hospice’s catchment area. The Schools Project has attracted the interest of many other hospices, as well as other healthcare institutions and inspired the development of similar projects, both nationally and internationally.
The aim of the Schools Project is to introduce the hospice and its work to the school communities in a creative and non-threatening way. Within a structured framework students are given the opportunity to interact and engage in music and art making together with terminally ill patients, culminating in an exhibition or performance. Promoting healthier attitudes towards death and dying amongst the students, their teachers, school peers, parents and carers, is at the core of the project.
This paper presents the philosophy and aims, as well as the process and outcomes, of the Schools Project. Additionally, an overview of all of the projects that have taken place at St Christopher’s since 2005, as well as some prospects for future development, are given. This will hopefully stimulate a constructive dialogue with regards to the potential role of hospices and the arts in the promotion of health and death education, as well as their potential impact on the development of sustainable healthcare policies and practices not only in palliative care, but also in other health and social care contexts.
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