Jefferson Barracks Cemetery Visit
Beasley Elementary School

Beasley Elementary is surrounded by the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Our fifth grade classes use a trip to the cemetery as a springboard to a variety of lessons teaching history, geography, poetry, respect, and integrity using a cooperative-learning activity. Students must learn some American history as background knowledge prior to this cemetery lesson. Students learn something about the conflicts in which our nation has been involved and when and where those took place. Students learn the issues that led to the U.S. Civil War and how troops were segregated by race. Students will complete a walking tour of the cemetery, complete a tombstone rubbing and then journal and write poetry of experience.

Note: it is possible to include staff development activities. In such cases, the “students” would be teachers/staff members. 

Students will respect veterans living and deceased. Students will move respectfully through the national cemetery. Students will  recognize the names of and sequence conflicts/wars in U.S. history. Students will identify various symbols found on tombstones (i.e. Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Confederate States of America, Unknown Soldiers, and religious icons) Students will prepare crayon rubbings of tombstones. Students will journal their experiences. Students will write poetry to express their feelings.
American history lessons, a walking tour of the cemetery, large paper, crayons, lined paper for poem, video showing the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, photos and newspaper clippings about what it means to be a veteran and some details of several veterans' military experiences. Timeline of American history with the names and times of different wars.
Before the walk, students view a video showing the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Using photos and newspaper clippings, students learn what it means to be a veteran and some details of several veterans' military  experiences. Then, using a timeline of American history, we preview the names and times of different wars. As we walk, the teacher explains why and how we move through the cemetery, how we show respect if we pass near (but too near!) a committal service, and who can be buried in the cemetery. Walking to the oldest part of the cemetery is a walk back through time. Students observe written on the tombstones the names of different wars, various branches of military service, honors and religious symbols. Here students learn the cemetery's history and connect classroom learning with names, dates and places on tombstones. Students identify stones from Revolutionary War veterans, Civil War Union and Confederate soldiers, Unknown soldiers, Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipients, mass graves, a Civil War Colored Infantry, and German POWs. Working with a partner, students choose which stone to use for a crayon rubbing. They gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of integrity by learning about the soldiers who received the Medal of Honor for their courageous acts and about those soldiers who died fighting together and are buried together. Near the end of our walk, students visit a memorial to a segregated African-American infantry unit from the Civil War. This leads to a discussion on segregation. Returning to school, students write their thoughts about their experiences and share those experiences in a round robin with their team. Students' journaling become their pre-writing for free-verse poems to reflect on their experiences. The poems and tombstone rubbings are displayed in the hall and shared with our buddy class.
The reflections and poem can be used as well as observations and discussions.