Knight Errant

Biomed students use interactive activity to start conversation about death

Biomed teacher, Ms. Kirsten Hooganakker prepares students to teach religion classes about death and dying.

Em Paquette

Biomed teacher, Ms. Kirsten Hooganakker prepares students to teach religion classes about death and dying.

Lizzie McCracken, Staff Writer

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Conversation is the first step to healing, inspiring, and connecting, says CEO of Common Practice, and creator of the game “Hello” Mr. Jethro Heiko. He wants to help BSM students show adults that one doesn’t need to wait to have necessary but difficult conversations. He plans on speaking with both Biomedical II and III students via video chat to teach them how to lead a Common Practice session. These students will then take their knowledge learned from Heiko and share it with sophomore religion classes by leading a conversation about death and dying.

Common Practice was started in 1995 by Heiko and Mr. Nick Jehlen.They think conversations surrounding tough subjects are too commonly avoided, and have taken actions towards normalizing them. They created the game “Hello”, an easy and non-threatening way to start a conversation about what matters most. It includes questions that people tend to have a harder time asking, for example, “Who haven’t you talked with in more than six months that you would want to talk with before you died?” This question, and ones similar, help jumpstart people into talking about death and dying.

I think there’s this sense amongst high schoolers where they feel invincible like nothing could ever go wrong in their lives. Going into college they think they’re gonna live forever, and I think talking about death and dying is a reality check in a lot of ways.”

— Ms. Kirsten Hooganakker

Biomed students will go through an in-depth training session to learn how to lead a Hello event. He will teach them how to start a conversation about death and dying, and how to facilitate the game “Hello.” They will then use the lesson they learned from Heiko, and  talk to sophomore religion classes about death and dying to help them feel comfortable about it. “I’m hoping that ‘Hello’ will be useful because there are some funny questions in the game to help normalize death, so my goal is that it allows our student body to feel more comfortable talking about these topics. We’re all going to experience a time when someone we know, love, or care about dies, and normalizing death makes our coping mechanisms and empathy better,” Biomed Teacher Ms. Kirsten Hoogenakker said.

Heiko hopes to get BSM students well prepared to have tough conversations so they can help others to do so as well. “Talking about death and dying used to make me more uncomfortable until we learned about palliative care and began having hard conversations in Biomed this year. We did multiple activities relating to how we want to die, what will be important to us before our death, and the medical things that needed to be taken into account before our death. By talking about all of this, I became much more comfortable talking about death,” junior, and Biomed II student Grace Knoer said.  

Heiko also wants adults to realize that it doesn’t have to be awkward or intimidating to have these talks. In order to help adults have these discussions, he aims to teach younger generations to grow up feeling comfortable having them, and share their feelings about them with their older counterparts. Common Practice is targeting the root of the problem: children growing up scared of death. “I think there’s this sense amongst high schoolers where they feel invincible like nothing could ever go wrong in their lives. Going into college they think they’re gonna live forever, and I think talking about death and dying is a reality check in a lot of ways,” Hoogenakker said.

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Biomed students use interactive activity to start conversation about death