Teaching Resources


Are we really living longer today?

Why not take your students to the cemetery to find out? And in the process why not learn about how the social science research process works? Students begin with an introduction to cemeteries, followed by a data gathering field trip, statistical analysis of their data, review of their analysis and new questions, and making further inquiries or use comparision data to better understand whether we really are living longer today. Students can discuss whether this main question is myth or reality and come up with possible reasons for their conclusions.

This study can be limited to a specific learning area if teachers wish, for example the unit would be an ideal mathematics study. The resource can also be expanded into a cross-curricular study involving statistics, English and social sciences. The unit is designed for levels 3 to 5 of the curriculum and is recommended for Levels 4 and 5.

Teachers are encouraged to consider the units as ideal starters for NCEA students looking for an area of inquiry particularly in geography or history.

Resource Set 1:
Mortality Unit Any Cemetery (L3 - 5) Scope for use at NCEA Levels 1- 3)

The following cemetery specific resources are available to support this study. This study is highly recommended as a possible inquiry study for NCEA level 1 2 or 3 students in social studies and geography. There is some excellent opportunity for inquiry for students. Note that these are not written up as units for NCEA.

  • This education kit contains a number of downloadable resources that can be used in any cemetery. Use the introductory photo-stories Introducing the Cemetery as starter activities for the following resources. (PDF file. Download size is 4.2 Mb).

  • Mortality teaching unit. (PDF file. Download size is 0.7 Mb).
    This mathematics and social sciences curriculum unit is ideal for teachers looking for an inquiry into life and living in the past. The unit starts with class groups gathering age and date of death data at the local cemetery and then analsying the data gathered by both groups and the whole class. This cemetery provides some interesting insights through mortality figures and will have students raising some very interesting questions about life in Victorian times.

  • Printable student fact sheets.
    • Types of memorials (PDF file. Download size is 1.3 Mb)
      A fact sheet that introduces students to examples of the variety of memorials that they will find at a cemetery.

  • Printable student worksheets
    • Generic Study Area Worksheet (PDF file. Download size is 76Kb)
      A generic student observation or worksheet which can be used as a template for any cemetery. Students can insert own sketches or photos of headstones or teachers can develop their own worksheets as below for the local cemetery.
    • Template for scatter plot graphs of data (PDF file. Download size is 64Kb)

Resource Set 2: Mortality Unit for Dunedin's Northern Cemetery(L3 - 5 and including NCEA Levels 1- 3)

The following cemetery specific resources are available to support this study.

  • Study Area Resource Packs for Dunedin's Northern Cemetery. These are student worksheets for gathering mortality data in particular pre-assigned areas of the cemetery. The study area resource packs come with cemetery and block maps as well as background information for the headstones that can be found in each section.

Resource Set 3: Mortality Unit for Dunedin's Southern Cemetery (L3 - 5 and including NCEA Levels 1- 3)

The following cemetery specific resources are available to support this study.

Resource packs for further inquiry

The following resources are designed to be used by students for further inquiries as a result of their cemetery mortality study.

Timeline of changes that impacted on public health (PDF file-340Kb)

The reasons for high child and young adult mortality are complex and many causes and solutions inter-relate. A printable timeline of inventions, public works, and other changes that improved lifestyle has been put together for students as an inquiry starter.

Quarantine Island Otago Harbour
(PDF file - 1.9Mb)

In times before vaccinations and antibiotics how did people cope with infectious diseases? This inquiry starter resource is a collection of fact-sheets, pictures, newspaper clippings and spreadsheets containing data about some of the immigrant ships that were quarantined and the deaths and burials recorded for the Quarantine Island Cemetery. The resource also provides a basis to investigate other quarantine stations that operated in New Zealand during the 19th Century.

(PDF file - 3.8Mb)

What were some of the infectious diseases that devastated early New Zealand society and what were the affects on families? An inquiry starter has been put together on some of the epidemics that afflicted families in the Otago region from the early 1870s to the 1918 flu epidemic. The affects on families can be seen on memorials
which are included in the kit along with some cemetery statistics, newspaper clippings and stories from secondary sources.

Disastrous House Fires
(PDF file - 3.3Mb)

There were a number of disastrous house fires in Dunedin causing the deaths of children. These short trails for the Northern and Southern Cemeteries in Dunedin, along with newspaper clippings, provide evidence of the effects of poor heating, lighting and poor building construction on early New Zealand communities and also provide an inquiry starter for a similar trail in your local area.