August 19, 2010

Summer Discoveries: Home and Family Tour

The idea of family and home is central to the design and conception of Forest Hills. Much of the cemetery is divided into family plots and many tombstones are marked with familiar relationships: “father,” “mother,” “brother,” “sister.” Many families created homes here either through marking family plots with stairs and stone railings or building house-like mausoleums.

Talking about home and families helps make cemetery history accessible to children, and they easily pick up the introduced concepts. They want to know about the relationships between those buried here and are eager to make connections and parallels between these stories and their own family life. Our students excitedly point out family plots as soon as they learn how to recognize them. They love to peek inside the mausoleums that dot our tour, especially when there is a beautiful stained glass window to discover. We talk about how mausoleums are like homes but very grand ones made out of stone and fine materials. Many of the contemporary sculptures also emphasize family. The children are always intrigued by Nightshirts, which represents a Victorian family. We also look at Christopher Frost’s Neighbors on the hillside on the way to the lake. We talk about the cemetery as a neighborhood that echoes the city.

Here is a map of the tour so you can walk it, too:

The children process these ideas by making books shaped like houses. Each child is free to draw his or her own idea of home, so each one is individual. These are then cut out and pages and a back cover cut in the same shape are added. Many of the children want to draw something based on one of the mausoleums they have seen.

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