Students learn more about hometown by “experiencing it”
By: Penny Moore and Chip Meyer
Morgan County Middle School Gifted Teachers
What is the best way to help a group of seventh and eighth grade teenagers appreciate their hometown? Have them experience it, instead of just exist in it.
Over the last few weeks, the students in the seventh and eight grade enrichment classes at Morgan County Middle School have had the opportunity to get out and see the communities in Morgan County first hand . . . many for the first time.
The unit started with Mr. Marshall “Woody” Williams giving a history of the county in the lower courtroom of the Morgan County Courthouse. There he told stories dating back to the Indians who inhabited our county over 5,000 years ago. Mr. Williams shared details of the development of the communities in Morgan County and the effects of the Civil War on our county, including the “true” story of why Sherman didn’t burn Madison (which had nothing to do with a woman, by the way!). Mr. Williams also shared artifacts of our county that dated back over 200 years.
From there, the students traveled to Buckhead for a meeting with Dr. and Mrs. John Wade. Much to their surprise, the students found out that Buckhead was once a bustling center of business and trade, hosting a hotel, a millinery shop, and several general stores. They were also fortunate enough to receive a personal tour of The Rock House, the Wade’s home that was build in the late 1890s and happens to be the only home in Buckhead on the National Historic Registry. The home, built from large pieces of granite that were cut from Stone Mountain and moved here by train, is indeed a piece of history unlike any other in the county.
The students then participated in what they considered the most exciting part of the unit: a citywide geo-caching scavenger hunt of downtown Madison. The caches, small boxes or containers placed in random places around the town by both the Chamber of Commerce and other visitors to our city, were found using posted coordinates, encrypted clues, and hand-held GPS units. The students’ charge was to decode the encryption for a hint to each cache’s location, then use the GPS coordinates to pinpoint each spot. Each box contains a sign-in sheet and often some sort of trinket or memento from previous “hunters.” The competition was indeed great, with the team of hunters who found the most caches walking away with the coveted prize of a Scoop’s gift certificate!
After caching, the hunters loaded on a school bus and headed to Rutledge. There they met Molly Lesinowski, owner of The Caboose. She treated them to lunch in the park and a personal tour and history lesson of the city of Rutledge, including a guided tour of the CCC Campgrounds at Hard Labor Creek.
Students then loaded on the bus for a driving tour of Fairplay, Bostwick, and Apalachee. Many students were able to see these communities for the first time; for those who had driven through the communities before, they learned more about the history and flavor of each little town, giving each student a greater appreciation for our county.
After participating in the tours of Morgan County, each student was asked to create a project that was a personal reflection of some aspect of the county that was important to him or her. Many chose to focus on the specific community in which they lived while others focused on the county as a whole; some students focused on the history while others focused on the current events and activities around town. There were scrapbooks of restaurants and places to visit, interviews with war veterans, photo books containing memories that dated back to some of the students’ grandparents who were born and raised in Morgan County, and even an original music score with song lyrics. The projects were as diverse as our classrooms, reflecting the individual personalities, interests, and lives of our students.
This project opened the eyes of our students to the wonderful community in which we all live and reminded us of just how lucky we are to call this place “home.”
Printed in the June 4, 2009 Edition.