It’s not often that a college course description is inspiring but then again there aren’t many courses like It’s A Beautiful Life. This 3 credit, undergraduate writing course at Drexel University (WRIT304) in Philadelphia is described as follows:
“Many people are scared of death. However, the last days of someone’s life are really a time to celebrate that life. In this hybrid, community-based learning course, student pairs will join together to create a Life Journal book to help a hospice patient pass down their life experiences to their family and loved ones. Participants will show the patients that what they’ve done really matters, while learning how much their own lives matter as well. Students will be required to meet with their hospice partner in area hospice or home once per week for interview material.”
Designed and taught by Drexel faculty member Ken Bingham, the course matches students with individuals receiving services through Crossroads Hospice. The inaugural offering in Summer 2013 saw 11 students enrolled from a wide range of disciplines, including biology, English, nursing and psychology. Staff from Crossroads Hospice facilitated the first two class sessions to prepare students for being with individuals who are dying. Students then met weekly with their hospice partners to create Life Journals to share with family members and friends. Professor Bingham reports that hospice patients and their families enthusiastically welcomed the students, often preparing food for their visits. Although three individuals died during the course of the semester, participants reported that the learning experience was one of celebrating life. Exceptional bonds can develop quickly in the face of life’s limits, as evidenced by students continuing to visit their partners after the 10-week course concluded.
It’s A Beautiful Life will be offered again in the Spring and Summer of 2014. To read more about this community-based learning experience that opens up conversations about death and life across the generations click here.