Friday, November 8, 2013

Bizarre and Unusual Fieldtrips: Cemetery

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

I have always loved cemeteries, even as a kid.  My mother's family are mostly buried in one cemetery behind my grandmother's church.  As a child, I have memories of decoration days with dinner on the ground and sometimes weekly visits to the graves.  We'd talk about who was buried where and how we were related.  My grandmother would tell me stories.  

I associate cemeteries with stories and heritage.  I don't live near my family graves anymore,  but cemeteries still capture my attention with unknown stories displayed between the dates on a stone.  I want my children to have reverence for these places and to see the connections to their community that can be found in this quiet and serene place.  Not a place of fear... 

Hence, the first in a series of many (I'm sure) of 
BIZARRE and UNUSUAL Field Trips:

We met some friends at one of our local cemeteries.  

NOTE:  Our group was small (6 total people), it is proper etiquette to call ahead and get permission for any large field trips to cemeteries.
Before we entered the cemetery, we went over etiquette for our visit.   This list is simple and fits the bill for every cemetery!

Each student brought a clipboard and pencil.   We made the below chart to tally the most prominent death dates we found on each tombstone.   This could easily be turned into a graphing project afterwards.

Each student picked a partner to walk around with.  Check out the etiquette rules above to see why!

After we tallied the majority of the graves, students looked for the following:

Can You Find?

  • Most unusual first names
  • Unique messages or epitaphs
  • Symbols-  (I had a sheet with some common symbols and what they mean.  Every time students found one, they would ask and we'd look it up.)  You can find lists here, and here and here
  • Oldest Person
  • Oldest Grave
  • Most recent grave
  • Different Geometric Shapes
  • Veterans from Different Wars (Write their name and the war they fought.)

We noticed intricate tombstones...

a marker to honor all those unmarked graves...

Veteran graves....

 hand-etched stones....

Each student received a tombstone hand-out and were told to sketch the one they found most interesting.  You can find that printable and other resources at this website

At the end, students found places where they just sat and looked at tombstones or sketch their surroundings. 


Prior to your visit, use this resource to look at different types of headstone materials 

Talk about disease, death caused by war and various other living conditions that could have caused deaths in the time periods (1917-1918- flu epidemic, major wars, higher infant mortality rates, etc.)


You can tally different aspects of information found on tombstones:  Men vs. Women, the time periods as we have done above, those over the age of 18 at the time of death vs. those younger...let your imagination run wild.  Graph your results.

Use basic subtraction to find out the age when the person died.


You can do sketches of tombstones that interest you or do a rubbing.  Please make sure to follow these guidelines when doing a rubbing.  Here's a great article discussing the topic:  Cemetery Rules about Rubbings Since we were not sure of the laws or rules in our areas regarding rubbings, we decided to sketch instead.


Write your own epitaph poem:

Have students write a epitaph with the following structure:  must contain their name, the same number of syllables per line and each line must rhyme at the end.  


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