About ten years ago I started taking my high school American Literature class to the local cemetery just down the road from our school. We would be studying the turn of the century poetry of the Modern Poets, and I planned a trip where we could read the poetry of Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. This too was first met by strange reactions. I send home letters of permission and explanation. We have one or two days of preparatory classes in cemetery etiquett (where to walk and sit) and expectations of the entire unit (reading the dramatic dialogues and writing a fictious epitaph poem and even making a sketch or rubbing of selected tombstones.
Students or their parents who say no are given the text reading assignment in the library. Most of my students go because I stress that we are respecting the dignity and beauty of the cemetery as we learn what other poets have said about living and dying.
My students have been very good about following the rules and enjoying this field trip lesson. Because we are a small rural town and local high school (Palisade High in Palisade, Colorado) most of the kids know people and have family buried there. We read respectfully and talk respectfully about the epitaphs and share stories about the known grave yard residents.
They have to come back to the classroom and produce a fictious epitaph about one of the tombstones or about any celebrity--living or dead. We share them outloud and appreciate each one's effort. Then we read and study Thorton WIlder's OUR TOWN, and the kids comment about how now Act 3 really effects them.
I don't take them every year, due to our changing curriculum. usually every spring. But this last spring, just as we had our trip planned and permission slips back, a parent of one of our popular seniors died and it affected our entire community. We didn't go, but the students asked if we went again this spring to let them go then.
So I too feel that a cemetery field trip is quite educational as
well as fun.
I do a unit for elementary level Spanish dealing with the Mexican holiday. My young students are very intrigued with the picnics with the spirits in the cemeteries and the other traditional cultural differences - the Mexicans have a very different slant on death. Lots of good websites, too.
Wanda Luedecke Corsicana, Texas
Julie Garrison, third grade teacher, Jackson, M
Great website!!!! I do a short lesson on quarries in my tech ed class. Part of that lesson I mention the stones in cemeteries. We discuss native stone Vs imported. A field trip to a cemetery. How wonderful!!!
Ellen McCormack Tech Ed teacher Brockton, MA
SuccessLink-Curriculum in the Cemetery
Links to all the Cemetery Studies Pages
Not just for teacher series pages
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