Task: Investigating symbols

A symbol is an object or picture which comes to represent something else. Cemeteries are a rich source of Christian symbols and can be a good starting point to a much wider study of symbols, their meanings and why we use them.

Resources to download :

Worksheet 1a Christian Symbols
Worksheet 1b Christian Symbols
Worksheet 1c Christian Symbols
Resource 1 Symbols found in Cemeteries and Graveyards

Classroom work pre-visit

Activity: Explore symbols the children are already familiar with from everyday life eg road signs.
Homework: Ask the children to draw a symbol that they see on their way home, and bring it into school. In class, the children can guess what the symbol is and where it was found.
History link: Explore why and how symbols have been used in the past. For example: to help those who couldn’t read understand (in church or on the street); in marketing, such as the pawnbroker’s three gold balls, a fresh green branch to denote new beer, and a boot for a shoemaker/cobbler.

Activity: (Worksheets 1a, 1b, 1c) Discuss the meaning and origin of the Christian symbols on the worksheet. Discuss with the students if they know of any religious symbols from other faiths/religions.

Mill Road Cemetery is a Christian burial ground where many Christian symbols can be found. The Victorians used symbols a great deal (see Memorials), especially in cemeteries like Mill Road. Pupils will be able to see many of the Christian symbols on the list (Resource 1) during their visit and can research their meanings. For the best place to do this activity, see Stop 5 on the Teachers’ Hints.

At the cemetery

Activity: In a burial ground like Mill Road, the symbols are Christian. Which is the most well-known symbol of all? How many different-looking crosses can you find and sketch?
Activity: How many different symbols are there in the cemetery? Ask the children to make a list and sketch three favourites on the symbol worksheet.

Equipment needed:
Class number of clipboards, pencils and Worksheets 1a, 1b, 1c
Copies of Resource 1
Plastic bags or mats for sitting on (in resource box)
Whistle for assembling children

Classroom work after the visit

Activity: Whole class to make large format symbols as a collage, on the computer, or as artwork for display purposes, with short explanations for each symbol.
Activity: Create symbols for today eg hairdresser, horse-riding stables, doctor, dentist.