July 25, 2009

The Summer Discoveries Program Discovers Animals!

It has been an exciting three weeks at the Summer Discoveries programs. We have had campers from three to seventeen years old, from communities as close as Dorchester and from as far away as Duxbury. While the weather hasn't always been easy, we're always amazed at campers who will brave the rain in order to see all of the amazing sights that Forest Hills Cemetery has to offer!

One of our subjects of focus this summer has been animals. In addition to all of the amazing wildlife at Forest Hills Cemetery, especially at Lake Hibiscus, the cemetery also contains a wealth of animal sculptures with deep symbolism. We have been exploring these sculptures, and the wildlife, with children and they have been creating "Animal Amulets," foil-carved necklaces with an animal of their choice. We have encouraged them to think deeply about which animals represent them, and we have enjoyed learning more about their personalities and personal values as they discuss their animal choices.

Here are some examples of practice sketches for the amulets:

The kids have continually impressed us with their originality and depth of thought and feeling.
We have also enjoyed discussing the various animal sculptures around the cemetery, including the Warren Fischer griffins, the Barnard Dog, the Kitchell Snow Eagle, and the various dove and lamb sculptures throughout the cemetery.

This is the Warren Fischer family plot. On the hill overlooking the graves, there are two of these magnificent griffin sculptures, one on each side. Many of the children recognize them as griffins right away, and several have referenced Harry Potter. It is exciting to hear the chilren talking about what makes griffins a great animal to mark a grave- they have talked about the idea of the griffins as protectors, guardians, and a symbol of the family's strength and power.

This wonderful dog scupture marks the grave of Henry Barnard. His wife had this created for him when he died, and when she died, she was buried here as well. The children love talking about this sculpture. Many of them talk about their own dogs, and how much they value them for their loyalty, protection, and companionship.
One of the most exciting sculptures we discuss has been this bronze eagle, which marks the grave site of Lieutenant Kitchell Snow. Snow was a pilot who died at 24 when his plane crashed. The children have discussed the eagle as a symbol of his loyalty to America and his bravery.

In addition to the sculptures, we have been lucky to have many exciting animal sightings this summer. Just Friday, we saw the amazing cormorant enjoying a large fish for its lunch. Here are some of the other animals we have seen on our walks:
I'm proud to say that I did some rock-climbing to get this photo of what I believe is a red-tailed hawk. It was the biggest bird I have ever seen in the wild.
When you see a snapping turtle this big, it's easy to imagine that dinosaurs once roamed the earth. This turtle was on the shores of Lake Hibiscus for two days before the lantern festival. You can identify a snapping turtle by its spiky tail and shell. Don't get too close, though! They are very strong and have very long necks.
There are some big (and rather loud) bullfrogs at the lake. The children love watching them jump and swim!
And of course, with all of this rain, there are the ubiquitous snails.

It has been a wonderful summer at Forest Hills Cemetery, and it is going quickly. Laila and I are looking forward to another great three weeks of the Summer Discoveries Program!

Erica Smiley

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