Mary Bouchards students writing the Olcott Falls Quest 5.2016 - resized

Looking for something fun to do in Wilder? Try the new Olcott Falls Valley Quest!

This Quest was created this past spring by 7 students at Hartford High School, along with their teacher Mary Bouchard and teaching assistant Kathy Mason.

Mary Bouchard teaches history and coordinates the Regional Resource Center at Hartford High School. Mary was introduced to Valley Quest years ago through a co-worker. While she loves taking students out on Quests, she most enjoys the act of creating new Quests with her students.

Mary started using Quests as a teaching tool several years ago in order to engage students with special needs in the history all around them. Over the course of several months, Mary’s students dig into the history of their Quest site through research and interviews. This hands-on learning process culminates with the creation of a final product—a new Valley Quest.

When Mary begins a new Valley Quest project with her students, she always starts by connecting with the local historical society. “We start with people and artifacts,” Mary says. She works with officials from the historical societies to bring in old toys, sewing machines, cameras, and other objects to show her students. These artifacts prompt discussions that get her students thinking about what life was like in their town in past eras.

The exciting part for Mary’s students is meeting with people in the community who have stories to tell. “Kids connect so quickly,” she says. “They get excited talking to people and hearing about special places.” These conversations give students a window into past events and the lives of former residents.

From there, the students choose specific aspects of the town’s history they want to share and start building their Quest. They begin writing clues designed to convey the town’s rich history while also leading Questers to the hidden treasure box.

Mary’s class decided to focus on buildings, the town layout, and the paper mill in Wilder. They wrote the Quest over the course of 3 months. In addition to the Olcott Falls Quest, Mary’s classes have created the Jericho Road Quest and the Center of Town Quest, both in Hartford, Vermont.

Mary encourages other teachers to engage their students in writing a Quest. Her first piece of advice: be prepared to spend time at your site. “We spent a LOT of time in Wilder,” Mary says. In order for students to write a good Quest that captures the essence of a place, they must first experience, understand, and appreciate the place themselves. In addition, students need to have done several Quests before attempting to write one, so always budget extra time for doing other Quests into your schedule.

While writing a Quest can seem daunting, Mary is confident that—with a little time and effort—anyone can write a successful Quest. “Reach out and let other people know you’re doing a Valley Quest,” she suggests. Once people know you’re working on a Quest, they will often recommend ideas or contacts related to the subject matter.

Need help to get started? Learn more on our Valley Quest pages or contact Sara Cottingham at Sara@VitalCommunities.org.