Teaching Resources

Science & Conservation


Weathering and decay

Many Victorian and Edwardian era cemeteries have become victim to the natural processes of decay, vandalism and the unchecked growth of trees and shrubs. They have in many instances been landscapes that have been all but forgotten by most, except perhaps the avid family genealogist or the occasional art student. In some cases council or borough authorities have moved or even removed headstones.

In this resource kit students investigate the natural processes of decay and look at some of the real world problems of cemetery maintenance and conservation.

Resource Set: (Levels 3, 4 and 5)

  • Teaching unit: Grave Concerns (PDF file. Download size 0.5Mb)
    The unit look at the science of the cemetery and conservation issues. This unit and the accompanying teaching presentations have students investigate the natural processes of decay and encourage them to look at a 'science action' at the end of the unit.

  • Teaching presentations
    • Photo-story: Materials (PDF file. Download size 3.7Mb)
      In this 25 slide photo-story students examine the types of stone that were most commonly used for headstones in Victorian and Edwardian era cemeteries and what those stones looked like. Included in this presentation are a number of science observations and experiments for students that includethe appearance of various stone, hardness, porosity, diluted acid tests, and density for an inquiry into the best stone for a monument that can be displayed in the science laboratory.

      This resource is also available as a Powerpoint presentation. Click on Materials.pptx (Compatible for Microsoft Powerpoint 2007 - PDF file. Download size 4Mb).

    • Photo-story: Processes (PDF file. Download size 4.3Mb)
      Through this 24 slide photo-story students investigate the types of weathering and decay that are found in various types of stone in the cemetery. The photo-story relates well to processes in earth science especially for Level 5 students.

      This resource is also available as a Powerpoint presentation. Click on Processes.pptx (Compatible for Microsoft Powerpoint 2007 - PDF file. Download size 5.3Mb).

    • Photo-story: Cemetery maintenance (PDF file. Download size 3.7Mb)
      This 24 slide photo-story overviews the type of weathering and decay occurring in cemeteries and some of the solutions that have been taken and can be taken to preserve cemetery heritage for future generations.

      This resource is also available in a 'ready to use' Powerpoint version. Click onand Cemetery Maintenance.pptx (Compatible for Microsoft Powerpoint 2007 - PDF file. Download size 5.1Mb).


  • Student observation and activity trails

    • Conservation trail for Dunedin's Northern Cemetery (pdf file size 1Mb). This is an example of the kind of trail that can be set up to have students look closely at the range and variety of issues that can be observed in an old cemetery.

    • Conservation trail for Dunedin's Southern Cemetery (pdf File size 1.1Mb). This is a similar example in another Dunedin cemetery. Different cemeteries do often have different problems. Teachers are encouraged to use these as models for trails in other cemeteries.

    • Tell us about your science action projects!

      If your class is working on a science and conservation action project in your local cemetery let us know about it.

      Email the details along with photographs or send as a Word file to Stewart Harvey and we will share your project with others on this website!