Los Alamitos
California, USA

Created BY LAHS students FOR LAHS students as a place to dream, reflect, and share.

At Los Alamitos High School, located in Los Alamitos, California, we offer Thanatology as an English department elective.  The course is devoted to the study of all things surrounding death – religious views, philosophical ideas, and legal issues.   Teaching this course is never easy; the high school seniors who take the class are highly motivated to challenge the ideas, preconceptions, and cultural views of death.

In March 2013, we viewed Candy Chang’s TED Talk about the Before I Die Wall; their interest was instantly peaked.   Debating and discussing suddenly transformed into a community effort among all students.  These high school students saw the wall as an opportunity to fill a need at Los Al – the need for quiet reflection and honest expression.  The initial problem was finding the perfect place on campus for the giant chalk board.  We staked out several outdoor walls; however, we could not come to a consensus about where this wall belonged.   The answer soon became obvious; we decided as a team to put it in our Thanatology classroom.   Having the board indoors would protect against weather and immature underclassmen who didn’t understand the purpose behind this idea.  As a class, the Thanatology students pulled money together to purchase the supplies for the wall and others donated their time to paint it.

Eventually, our own Before I Die Wall was born and inaugurated into use on May 15, 2013.   The ability to write on the wall was an amazing and freeing experience for all students.    As word of the wall spread across campus,  students began to pour into the classroom to add their thoughts and reflect on those left by others; the classroom is constantly awash with students stopping in to read, write, and reflect.   We are planning to take pictures of the wall once it is absolutely full, clean it up, and start again. We will post the picture of the old wall around the room so students wont forget the hopes and dreams they once shared.  The point of this wall is not to make kids ponder their own demise; however,  it is a way for students to express themselves in a positive and completely anonymous way.

Students can see that they aren’t alone in their dreams, desires, faults, and regrets.   The positive things shared  have become a beacon of hope for those who need it, but are too afraid to admit it.  Sharing what should be done before death is an encouragement to others to make the most of their life.

Built by Lori Franzen and the Thanatology Class of 2013

May 2013