On March 16, Lura Libby’s fourth-graders boarded a bus in Thomaston bound for downtown Waldoboro. Their mission was to solve the quests (community treasure hunts) that their teachers created at the Quebec-Labrador Foundation’s Questing Program’s 2009 Summer Teachers Institute called Questing to Learn: Connecting Schools, Kids, and Communities.

Delia Clark, an internationally recognized leader in place-based education and co-author of the book “Questing: Creating Community Treasure Hunts,” led the institute, training 12 teachers and one administrator.

Lura Libby Principal Beth Chamberlin and the two fourth-grade teachers, Michelle Ford and Susan Davenport of the Lura Libby School, were three of the institute participants. The three educators are now charged with creating quests with their students, connecting the learning to the St. George watershed. One of the steps in making this kind of treasure hunt, or guided walk to special places, is going on a quest that has already been created.

The two Waldoboro quests guide people along the Medomak River, identifying landmarks related to shipbuilding history, clamming, and/or the alewife/mill story in the town.

The students were even lucky enough to run into John Fancy from the Wastewater Treatment Facility who was shutting off the generator test at the pumping station, which is located at the former site of the sewage treatment plant. Not only did the students learn a lot about that site from the quest clue, but they also asked Fancy additional questions and some got the chance to peek inside at the generator.

Lura Libby students commented on the quest.

“I learned so much — like they built really big ships in Waldoboro … like one guy gave the money to build 40 of them!”

“We got to see where they used to use the river to power mills to cut wood and make cloth and stuff. Now that the mills are gone, the fish can go up the river now — like alewives can.”

“I never really thought about rivers being saltwater and freshwater — that is called an estuary, by the way, but of course some rivers (like this one, the Medomak, and ours, the St. George), hit the ocean, so they have to be salty. I can’t believe this is the head of tide; it seems so far away from the ocean.”

The teachers said their students are “even more excited now to get going” on their own quest after going on the Waldoboro ones.

The students have already been to their quest sites (the Georges River Land Trust’s Baker Woods property on Beechwood Street and the Thomaston Town Forest, accessed at the Wastewater Treatment Plant). Jay Astle, stewardship program manager at GRLT, and John Fancy, plant manager of Thomaston’s Water Pollution Control Facility, gave the students an in-depth look at the natural history of the properties and how wastewater is treated in the lagoon system.

The fourth-graders will now take all this information, gathered from experiences at their quest site and on the downtown Waldoboro quests, and begin the process of writing clues, making a map and designing their treasure box.

The questing project is a program of the Quebec-Labrador Foundation’s Marine Program. The Quebec-Labrador Foundation is a 50-year old bi-national conservation and community service organization committed to supporting rural and community based projects. Funding for the questing program is made possible by NOAA’s New England Bay Watershed Education and Training Program, or B-WET. For more information, or to request a brochure for the upcoming free 2010 Questing to Learn Summer Institute, contact Anne Stires or Jennifer Atkinson at 832-8109.