Recommended for ages 7 and up.

Explore the symbols on gravestones and learn their meanings! This can be done anywhere in the Cemetery.

Curriculum Connections:

● National Visual Arts Standards

NA-VA.K-4.4 Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
NA-VA.K-4.5 Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others.
NA-VA.K-4.6 Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines.


● Stories in Stone scavenger hunts (choose hunt #1, hunt #2, or both!)
● Pencil
● Optional: notebook and art materials (crayons and colored pencils are preferred to markers in the Cemetery. Please make sure not to put any markings on the monuments!)

Before your visit:

● Parents, talk with your child about what a symbol is. A great definition is “something that stands for something else.”

● As a family, look for some symbols in your home. Common examples: eagle on a dollar bill, a cross or other religious symbol, or look out your window at a crosswalk: talk about how the orange hand and white walking figure are symbols for stop and go. Look at pictures of buildings on the internet that have symbols related to their purpose. For example, courthouses often have the scales of justice carved into their facades. Break down what the symbols are, what they stand for, and why they are useful.

● Why useful: sometimes it’s easier to understand images than words. For example, if you are in a country where you don’t speak the language but you need a doctor, you might look for a symbol of a short red cross, or a mortar and pestle to symbolize a pharmacy. Images can communicate meaning to form a common, quick language between different people.

● Talk about how when people die, their loved ones often put up decorative stones (at Green-Wood we call them “monuments”) to mark their gravesites and tell something about them. Often, these monuments include symbols of things that were important to the deceased person, or symbols that say something about the deceased person’s character or values.
● Try inventing a symbol of your own! What’s a personal quality or value that is important to you? Love? Honesty? Bravery? Have you and your child choose a quality or value in secret and draw a picture to symbolize it. After you finish your drawings, show each other your symbols. See if you can guess what the other person’s is and what it means. Or just have the other person describe what they created.
● Preview that you’re going to go on a hunt for interesting symbols on monuments at Green-Wood!
● Print out the Stories in Stone scavenger hunts at home. They will not be available on-site at Green-Wood.
● Note for parents: Green-Wood contains a lot of graves of children and babies. This is because of our age—we’ve been burying people since 1840, and some reburials at Green-Wood are even older. It may help your child to know that child mortality (the rate of children dying from birth to age five) is very rare today but was extremely high in the U.S. until the 1940s when antibiotics and other life-saving medicines, like vaccines, became more widely available. Most of the children buried at Green-Wood long ago died of illnesses that the vast majority of kids today would survive (like the flu, or diarrheal diseases). On rare occasions, the cause of death might be stated on childrens’ grave and your child may recognize those illnesses (pneumonia, for example). Decide whether or not you want to preview for your children that they will likely see these graves at Green-Wood and in fact some symbols on their sheets are specific to child graves. Read the scavenger hunts before your child does. You may decide to black out certain symbols with a sharpie—but keep in mind it may be hard to avoid your child noticing the graves of very young people as they are all over the Cemetery.

During your visit:

● Dress in comfortable, closed-toe walking shoes, and bring weather-appropriate layers. Keep in mind it is often a bit windier in the Cemetery than on the streets.
● Enter the Cemetery at any open entrance. Make sure to check our website to find out when different entrances open and close each day.
● Stroll around and look for the symbols on your sheet(s)! Or find a monument you like and see if it has a symbol on it.
● Are some symbols more common than others? Why might that be? Look for dates on the monuments. Do monuments that were created around the same time tend to share certain symbols or other qualities? How about the monuments that are all related to members of the same family—how do their symbols compare?
● If you have a notebook, draw symbols you want to remember. Or take pictures of them!
● Which symbols do you like the best? Which have a special meaning to you? What emotions do they make you feel?

After your visit:

● Keep talking about the symbols you saw! Go over your drawing or pictures. Share your memories with family members who didn’t come with you. Send us a picture on social media using the hashtag #GWismyclassroom and tell us what you saw and what it meant to you!
● Write notes with a family member using a secret symbol code. Use ones from the hunts or make up your own.