Most people wouldn't expect to find middle school students spending their weekend at a cemetery.
For the last year and a half, members of St. Thomas the Apostle's History Club have been among a group working to restore the Wyckoff-Snediker Family Cemetery in Woodhaven.
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society has led the project after being asked in by the new owners of the property.
The cemetery is located behind what is now All Saints Episcopal Church.
The congregation needed help cleaning up the historical property after moving into the church in 2013.
"It is a way that we can get involved with the community, in a significant way, and while doing something historical," explained Father Norman Whitmire of All Saints Episcopal Church.
It's taken more than a year and a half of monthly clean-ups to get to where they are now.
When they began the project, weeds that were several feet tall blanketed the land and hid gravestones dating back to the 1700’s.
“This cemetery has been subject to neglect for the better part of the last century and it’s been an eyesore…Now, we're shining a light on it,” said Ed Wendell, the Executive Director of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society.
However, the clean-up is more than a community service project. It’s also served as a learning opportunity for the students participating.
“It’s been an absolutely wonderful opportunity for teaching about the settling of Queens,” said Patti Eggers, a teacher at St. Thomas the Apostle.
Students have now plotted the land and know the names of many of the people buried in the cemetery.
Using the internet and newspaper records they’ve also learned that many of them have names they’ve heard before.
“We learned that a lot of the people, they have monuments or something named after them like Eldert Lane is named after the Elderts,” said St. Thomas the Apostle History Club Member Nicole Delaney.
There is another lesson that those behind the clean-up want students to get from the experience as well.
“I think it’s very important that they learn how we treat our past…it tells you how they are going to treat the future,” Wendell said.