Hometown Treasure Hunt
Morgan County Middle School Students Learn From Geocaching
About 75 Morgan County Middle School students spent some time recently learning about treasures—both literal and figurative—buried right here at home.
Seventh and eighth grade enrichment students of Penny Moore and Chip Meyer recently spent some time studying the history and geography of Morgan County, complete with multi-media history projects and, as a special treat for the kids, a day spent geocaching in downtown Madison.
“We wanted to teach the kids about their own history, their own county,” said Moore. “At some point, we realized that not all of our kids had been to Buckhead. Not all of our kids knew where Rutledge was.”
Moore and Myer remedied that with lessons about the county and its principal municipalities and neighborhoods. A first stop,
of course, was an interview with local historian Marshall “Woody” Williams, who was able to fill them in on the Native Americans who first settled in Morgan County thousands of years ago. They took a field trip to Buckhead, to visit the old “Rock Tavern;” they ate lunch at the Caboose in Rutledge, saw the water mill at Hard Labor Creek State Park, became acquainted with the Fairplay store, downtown Bostwick, and the old Apalachee School House.
But the highlight of the unit may have been the day they broke into groups and were set loose in downtown Madison to locate as many “geocaching” sites as possible within a 90-minute time frame.
“So many of our kids take the town for granted because they simply ‘exist’ here,” said Moore. “Our goal was to get them to experience Madison and all it had to offer, from historical sites to places of business, even a few homes. They were able to walk the city streets and see things that they otherwise might overlook.”
Geocaching is a sort of local treasure hunt in which participants locate the coordinates (from Internet sites) of local “caches” of goodies. These coordinates are plugged into a hand-held GPS unit and the treasure hunters move toward the coordinates and try to locate something hidden in the landscape by a previous geocacher—it could be a metal “ammo” box filled with small toys, or a tiny plastic film canister with simply a rolled piece of paper logging the names of searcher who have previously found that particular site. Geocachers who find a site generally sign a log, or exchange a small trinket that they bring for something in the cache that they find. Moore & Meyer’s students had to find the caches and take a group photograph of themselves with the hidden item in order to get credit for having found it.
“This way,” said Jacob Bobo, motioning fellow seventh graders down West Central Avenue toward the Madison city cemetery. “It’s near the Civil War graves,” he said. In this way, students got an on-the-ground geography lesson in Madison, having to locate and navigate between a number of sites listed for them by Moore, their language arts teacher, and Meyer, their math teacher.
In downtown Madison, there are at least a dozen geocaching sites that local students found, including hidden treasure in the cemetery, at the old jail, near Rogers House and Rose Cottage, at Heritage Hall, the Cultural Center, Hill Park—the list goes on.
“Once the kids learn how to do this, they can go online and look for geocaching sites all over the world,” said Meyer. “When they go on vacation, they can look up the zip code of the place they are visiting, plug that into the geocaching web site, and it will give them a list of the coordinates for all the geocaching sites in that area…it’s a great way to get to know an area.”
For more information on geocaching, or to learn about local “treasure” sites in this area, visit www.geocaching.com.
Printed in the June 4, 2009 Edition.