|Classroom Activities||Background Essays||Timelines||Freedom & Unity Exhibit||Bibliography||Links|
Author: Frank Kelley,
Hartford Memorial Middle School
Grade Level: Grades 4 - 7
Length of lesson: Variable
Cemeteries and graveyards are part of our landscape and communities. They are the monuments people have created to mark the place where a family member, friend, or neighbor was laid to rest. Examining these markers gives students a chance to learn about a person's life, the materials that were available at the time, the different ways to make letters, and ,more. It is a wonderful introduction to working with primary sources.
Cemeteries are usually fairly close to the center of communities which makes them easy to visit; they are often within walking distance of schools. Students have seen cemeteries, probably visited them, and they have heard stories about them. The combination of intrigue, drama, and mystery gets students' attention; once they see how cemeteries can be both educational and fun, they will want to continue their work there.
This lesson is designed as an introduction. The amount of time spent out of class investigating will depend on the goals, targeted skills, students, schedule, and weather. Once you get started in a cemetery, you keep going back to learn more.Primary Sources used:
Note: The students might suggest doing gravestone rubbings, but most experts strongly suggest that students NOT do this. These rubbings put unnecessary strain on the stones, cause bits and pieces of lichens and moss to fall off, and potentially leave lasting marks. The sketching strategies explained below help the students examine the gravestones. Digital photographs also provide the students with an image that they can examine later back in class. Doing a series of sketches together allows the students to share discoveries such as techniques for sketching. Once the students know the expectations, it is appropriate for them to begin their own searches and sketches.
Have student-historians do a project entitled, "Interview a Dead Person", by finding out more information about their person using census data, birth, marriage, and death records, land holdings, genealogy, war records, and so on.Standards Addressed
Students connect the past with the present by… Explaining differences between historic and present day objects in the United States and/or the world, and evaluating how the use of the object and the object itself changed over time.
Describing ways that life in the United States and the world has both changed and stayed the same over time; explaining why changes have occurred.
Students show understanding of how humans interpret history by… Identifying different types of primary and secondary sources, and understanding the benefits and limitations both bring to the study of history.
Students develop investigable questions by… Asking relevant, researchable questions based on what they have seen, what they have read, what they have listened to, and what they have researched.
Asking questions that lead to an analysis of an historical era through primary source materials.
Students conduct research by… Describing evidence and recording observations using notecards, journals, or databases. (e.g., recording relevant details of an historical or geographical landmark).
Sketch Overview Worksheet (provided)Assessments
Rubric for evaluating sketches (provided)Resources
"Stones and Bones: Using Tombstones as Textbooks" (Vermont Old Cemetery Association Curriculum, 1996)