I did some tombstone rubbing with kids when I was a social studies teacher a long time ago. It was a great activity. The problem I had with them was what to do with the large rubbings of tombstones after the activity was over. Some kids took them home where I'm sure many a mother accidentally threw them away. I envision the middle schooler coming home and discovering his special tomb rubbing gone. He confronts his mother and she holds her pale hand in front of her mouth and says.
"I'm sorry honey. I thought it was trash. If it's that important , you and your father can go tombstone rubbing this summer."
Dad usually pipes in about then. "I ain't taking the kid to rub anything dead."
"Don't worry honey. I'll talk to your father and I'm sure you will both be spending a lot of time with the dead this summer. If not, your father will wish he were with the dead." At which point she turns to her husband and says, "Now, I know you think your son is strange, but if he wants to spend time in the graveyard, wouldn't you rather he do that with you than with a bunch of dead people you don't even know?"
"Gloria, I don't want to spend no-time, in no-graveyard. No way. And he doesn't need to either. What in Sam Hill are they teaching these kids in that crazy zombie school of walking dead anyway?"
Or so I imagine the conversation going. I'm much more inclined these days to use a digital camera. But if you are inclined to go "old school" with the whole tombstone thing, then here is a site that describes the process. I saw several places that suggested cleaning the tombstones first to get a better image. I'd be reluctant to do this as so many of these stones are fragile. If I were to be that intrusive, I'd be sure to check with who ever maintains the graveyard. This article also recommends black crayon which has the advantage of not smearing. I liked the image I got from using a charcoal stick (used in art). You can get a setting spray from the same place you buy the charcoal stick that will keep the rubbing from smearing. It's more mess and bother and I would stick to crayons with younger kids.
I think with today's digital tools it also might be interesting to map out a graveyard. Maybe create a spreadsheet of birth dates and deaths. There are several trends that kids can usually see when they collect this kind of data. Epidemics. Wars. The number of children that died at birth or before their first birthday. Surnames can sometimes give clues to family origins. Just a thought.....I'm sure some history teacher out there has done something like this already.
[Image: "Skull and crossbones tombstone, part:I": Flickr: Uploaded on February 17, 2007 by tstadler:http://www.flickr.com/photos/tstadler/393482519/]