Educator's Guidebook

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Cemeteries are located near places where people live and they record the lives of those who have gone before us. They are of important historic and educational value. A study of a cemetery can reveal a great deal about the lives of people and the community in which they lived. Woodland is open to all, so it reflects the diversity of the City of Dayton and its surrounding area. Some of those interred in Woodland were born in countries all over the world and immigrated to southwestern Ohio. The cemetery accommodates the beliefs and practices of the various cultural and religious backgrounds of the families it serves.

Woodland was created as a "rural" cemetery, a new concept in the nineteenth century to provide a beautiful and hygienic setting for burial away from the densely populated areas of Dayton. The land had been farmed before being purchased in 1841 to create a rural cemetery. You will find that Woodland Cemetery, even though surrounded by a bustling city, has retained its rural atmosphere. The trees and shrubs have attracted birds and other small wild creatures which make their home here.

Not everyone has a place like this to take their children. It excites children, provides a natural learning environment, and charges no admission fee. It provides information that can be easily integrated into many subject areas. You may bring students here for all kinds of reasons and activities: rock study, leaf collections, getting in touch with your past, bird watching, genealogy, architectural drawing, noting death trends, or grave marker rubbing, to name a few.

We hope you and your students gain much knowledge and understanding about both natural and human interactions from the activities you choose. Please use Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum as a tool to learning for and about the future.

A field trip to Woodland Cemetery will give you an opportunity to teach the skills of the Ohio Pupil Proficiency Tests at all levels and in all subjects. You just need to adapt the content to that skill (for example: graphing the life spans of people from the dates on their gravestones). This content is especially useful to teach the skills of the scientific process. The Ohio Proficiency science learning outcomes listed below from the grades 4 and 6 tests especially lend themselves to activities you can do at Woodland. You may find others.

Grade 4 Science Learning Outcomes

  • Create and use categories to organize a set of objects, organisms, or phenomena.
  • Use a simple key to distinguish between objects.
  • Identify and/or describe the relationship between human activity and the environment.
  • Identify evidence and show examples of changes in the earth’s surface.

Grade 6 Science Learning Outcomes

  • Use a simple key to classify objects, organisms, and/or phenomena.
  • Make inferences from observations of phenomena and/or events.
  • Identify simple patterns in physical phenomena.
  • Identify characteristics and/or patterns in rocks and soil.
  • Analyze behaviors and/or activities that positively or negatively influence human health.

Preparing for Your Cemetery Tour

Before visiting the cemetery, it is important to make some preparations:

  • Remember that living, active families have loved ones interred at Woodland and they want the graves treated respectfully. Noisy children may disturb a grieving family. Discuss this with your class both before and during your visit. Also, the older markers and monuments can be very fragile and can be easily damaged. DO NOT allow students to climb on or lean against any of them. Despite our best efforts, the older, more fragile ones, particularly, might break loose from their foundations. These can be very heavy, capable of causing severe injury should they topple into a crowd.
  • Make an appointment with the office at 937.228.3221. This is an active cemetery and funerals still take place here. If you arrive here without first having made an appointment, the area you wished to visit with your class may not be available to you. Be aware of special days at the cemetery and plan around them. You might even wish to lay a wreath with your students at the gravesite of someone special to them.
  • Make sure you have a map for each adult. In addition to the map at the end of this guide, others are available in the office. You don’t want to get lost in Woodland. It is a good idea to plan your route before arriving with the students. Woodland has a few volunteer docents, and there are people you may know in the community who can help you make your plans or can accompany you. If you wish to visit a particular grave that is not on the map, you will need to contact the office for directions before you arrive.
  • Students should dress for the weather. In hilly areas, sturdy footwear is important; and if there has been rain recently, the grounds may be soggy and slippery.
  • You do not need permission to take photographs during your visit.
  • If you intend to make monument rubbings, you may need to be careful which monuments you can use. Some of the older monuments and those made of softer stone should not be used. You will need to bring your own supplies. Thin rag or medium weight rice paper, masking tape, hard graphite or charcoal, and spray fixative are recommended. Soft pencil and craft paper can also be used. DO NOT USE CRAYON! Under no circumstances attempt to enhance the inscriptions in any way.
  • If you are going to collect information for genealogy, the office may be able to provide an interment record and/or a lot register (map of lot). There may be a small fee. Call ahead so you will have these when you arrive or have them mailed.
  • If you have enough adult leadership and time, you could divide your class into small groups with each group doing two or more activities. THERE MUST BE AN ADULT LEADER WITH EACH SMALL GROUP. Discuss the respectful treatment of graves with the adult leaders. They may not be prepared for the rambunctious behavior of groups of children when they are out-of-doors.
  • There are areas in the cemetery where you may picnic with your group, but check with the office to locate an area. "Rural" cemeteries were originally planned to be places where groups could gather, relax, and perhaps picnic.
  • Have necessary materials; for example: sketch pads, pencils, cameras, bags for gathering nature, journals or notebooks, materials for rubbings (NOT CRAYONS) if you need them, etc.
  • If paints and food are included in your outing, you must bring drop cloths and obtain a permit from the office.

For more information on the printed version of The Woodland Educator's Guidebook please phone 937.228.3221 or email