Date of Award

Spring 5-1-1987

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching & Learning


The purpose of the study was to explore elementary-aged children's conceptions of death through the use of stories and to examine the use of story as a medium in the expression of children's conceptions of death. The subjects were 31 elementary-aged children (12 kindergarteners. 9 second graders, and 10 fourth graders). Each group was randomly divided into Group I and Group II. Group I (contextual stories) listened to three stories that reflected real life experiences with death; stories were adapted from children's literature. Group II (media stories), on the other hand, listened to three stories that presented an actual death experience based upon newspaper accounts. Both groups were presented with a sequence of three stories within a one-week period. The sequence of stories introduced the idea of death, proceeding from a remote indirect experience in the first story and progressing to a more personal, intimate, and direct experience in the later two stories. Group discussions followed each of the story sessions in order to assess children’s conceptions. Questions were designed to facilitate open discussion. Data obtained were descriptive in nature, and children's responses were classified using Kane’s (1979) components of death. The major findings of this study were: 1. Using Kane's components of death, variable patterns were found in kindergarten, second, and fourth grade, as the sequence of

three stories unfolded in both groups. 2. Storie* designed in a contextual or media format were feasible tools Co evoke elementary-aged children's conceptions of death. 3. A storyteller or a discussion leader (e.g., teacher or counselor) presenting different contextual and media stories in a school setting promoted an atmosphere of acceptance of the death experience. 4. Children in the study did not "personify" death. This is in contrast to Nagy's (1948) study, who found that children between the ages of five to nine personified death.