School’s project

A pioneering scheme that invites schoolchildren into the hospice to learn about hospice care and explore life, death and bereavement.

The Chestnut Tree House School’s Project is currently on hold because of COVID-19.

Instead, we’ve put together a Feelings Activity Book for children aged 9-10 years; we believe it’s more important than ever to be talking to children about loss and transition. The activity book is full of activities that children can work on independently, in groups, or with the help of a teacher or parent.

About the Feelings Activity Book

This is a fun activity book which helps children explore their feelings, relationships in the wider world, resilience, loss and transition. It can be completed by individuals, in groups or with the support of parents, carers or teachers.

Feedback from Deputy Head, Tamara Pearson, of Sion Junior School:

“This is absolutely superb! It is pitched exactly right and has the right balance of information and reflection. I am quite sure that many children will find this resource hugely useful.”

Thank you

A massive ‘thank you’ to all the schools who have supported the Chestnut Tree House Schools Project over the years. Please let us know how you get on with the Feelings Activity Book: what worked, what we might do differently.

Download the activity book

About the author

The activity book has been carefully put together by hospice nurse, Marcelle Palmer, who pioneered one of the first hospice schools’ projects in the country. Over the last four years, schools have visited our adult hospice, St Barnabas House, where pupils are paired with patients who they take part in creative activities with over the course of three weeks. Marcelle has worked as a nurse for 37 years, is a qualified counsellor and has been part of the hospice movement for 12 years. Marcelle was invited as a guest speaker to the Hay Festival in 2018 to talk about the Schools Project and the importance of talking to children about the death of a loved one.

Marcelle says:

“I am always amazed to see how easily children can discuss difficult subjects that adults will often find hard, such as death and bereavement. We need to be having these sorts of conversations with children now more than ever, so this is a way of helping with that.”

What pupils have to say about the activities book:

My favourite parts were the ideas and strategies, as they will help me to deal with loss and anxiety.

Information for parents and teachers

Adults and society in general appear to feel a need to protect children from emotional pain (Warnick 2017). It is not possible to prevent children from feeling sad, frightened or any other ‘negative’ emotion. It is much more beneficial to prepare children for death and the emotional turmoil which may occur during any life crisis, providing them with coping strategies to see them through life, rather than be protected from it (Warnick 2017).

Children come across death all the time, whether it’s a bird in the garden; a stranger on the news; a character in a favourite film or a loved one. They need help from adults to make sense of what they see and are curious and more open to talking about it than adults often realise.

If death is not talked about, children can form their own inaccurate beliefs and may feel isolated or guilty. (Dying Matters Talking to Children About Dying Leaflet 5 2020).

Our Feelings Activity Book has been created to help children to identify their support networks and strengths as well as encouraging conversations around their feelings. These are all considered to be beneficial to building resilience (Mitchell 2015).

Books and films are a gentle way to start conversations around difficult topics, some recommendations include:

Book recommendations 

  • The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside and Frank Rodgers
  • Michael Rosen’s Sad book by Michael Rosen
  • When Dinosaurs Die by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
  • The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
  • Lovely Old Roly by Michael Rosen
  • Dear Grandma Bunny by Dick Bruna

Films

  • The Lion King – Disney
  • Coco – Disney
  • UP – Disney Pixar
  • A Monster Calls – J.A. Bayona
  • Big Hero 6 – Disney
  • Soul – Disney