Stow students take biology lesson to area cemetery

By Julie Pavelich and Diane Smith Record-Courier s Published:

Michael Roberto, a biology teacher, took about 26 high school sophomores, to the cemetery Friday, where they took down the names of people buried there and the dates they were born and died.

Roberto, a graduate of Kent State University, is teaching a unit on ecology, the study of plants and animals in relation to their environment, and decided the cemetery would be a good place for his students to learn about when and maybe why people died during different periods of time.

"The students are collecting data but don't really know why they are here," said Roberto, as his class scattered throughout the grounds looking at the various gravestones. "I want them to see why maybe more women were dying during their 20s _ their child-bearing years _ than now, and to see that people are living longer in the 1900s than in the 1800s.

"I am hoping they will draw their own conclusions as they do this and see the effects of the environment on men and women.," he said.

Roberto adapted the lesson to a similar one he learned when he took an ecology course at KSU from Robert Carlson, a professor of biological sciences at KSU and similar workshops, all involving studying when people were buried in Standing Rock.

Using the information he learned in college, Roberto adapted the lesson to the high school level.

"The reason we picked Standing Rock is because it's a very old cemetery," he said. "It goes back to 1859."

The students were divided into areas throughout the cemetery in order to collect information from several decades. They then will use the data they collected Monday to make charts and compare the mortality rates of the 19th and 20th centuries.

"Looking at the population can tell you a little bit of what was going on at that time," Roberto said.

For instance, he said, he expected the students to find more tombstones of young men who died around the time of World War II as well as lower infant mortality rates in modern years because of medical advances.

Although several of the students admitted they weren't crazy about spending the morning in a cemetery, they did come up with their own observations from the data they collected.

"I knew we were coming and collecting dates to find out how long the age span was between males and females," said student Stacey Blazer. "I feel bad when I walk through here because I know someone is under there, but it is neat to know about their lives and see from what is on their graves that they had brothers and sisters who loved them."

"We're figuring out how old the cemetery is and how people die," said Adam Myers as he scrawled down information from a grave from the 1800s. "People didn't seem to live too long then."

Myers and his friend, Brian Kalbaugh, noticed the graves of several infants who had died, and also discovered that there was about an equal amount of men and women who died during the 19th century in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

"We found one child who wasn't even 1 yet," Kalbaugh said. "People live

a lot longer now ... all of these (people) were pretty young."

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