Wilder’s New Quest: Olcott Falls Quest

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.

Thanks to our volunteers!

Special thanks to volunteers Ted Frazer, Lois Frazer, Linda Kahl, and Misty Dumont! These avid Questers have been busy this summer checking on Quests, replacing missing Quest boxes, updating clues, and helping recruit box monitors.

These folks recently put up a new birdhouse built by Ted Frazer at the Valley Quest of White River Junction to house the treasure box. (And don’t miss our feature on Ted and his birdhouses!)

 

Valley Quest of WRJ

Volunteer Spotlight: Ted Frazer

Have you ever come to the end of a Valley Quest and found the treasure box hidden inside a wooden birdhouse?

Chances are that box was either built or repaired by Ted Frazer.

Ted is a woodworker who taught at Lebanon Junior High School in the shop program for 40 years. Based in Etna, New Hampshire, he currently teaches in the Dartmouth College Woodworking Workshop.

Ted and his wife Lois have been avid Valley Questers since 2001. In their free time, the couple serve as box monitors for numerous Valley Quests and are longtime volunteers with the program.

Several years ago, Vital Communities approached Ted about repairing some of the original wooden Quest boxes in Woodstock that were showing signs of age. In the years since, Ted has been our go-to volunteer for making and repairing the wooden Quest birdhouses found throughout the Upper Valley.

Ted builds these custom birdhouses in several designs. Some boxes feature a bottom panel that drops like a trap door, releasing the Quest box inside. Other birdhouses, including the more recent models, feature a special front panel that opens out to reveal a Quest box.

These birdhouses are beautiful, handcrafted treasures that enrich the Valley Quest program. Thank you, Ted, for helping make the Upper Valley a special place!

 

Do you have a special talent that you’d like to contribute to Valley Quest? Let us know!

The Next Generation of Questers in Charlestown

The best part about Valley Quest is how excited people get when they go on a Quest.

Until last week, the only Quests I had been on were with my dog. Don’t get me wrong, my dog is wonderful, but doing a Quest with kids is a totally new and great experience.

On a recent afternoon, two of my nieces and I decided to conquer the SCA Quest in Charlestown, New Hampshire.

SCA is the Student Conservation Association, which aims to connect young people to the environment and environmental stewardship through hands-on learning. The campus is beautiful and is surrounded by fields, the Connecticut River, and historical Charlestown.

The Quest itself wasn’t difficult, but being able to follow directions that are phrased as riddles correctly can certainly be a challenge. But it was a challenge we were all up for.

What was amazing was how enthusiastic my nieces were before, during, and after our Quest. My youngest niece even said, “This is better than the water park!”—and nothing says “enthusiastic” quite like that.

I had told the girls about the stamps that are located in the Valley Quest boxes that you use to stamp your Valley Quest book when you have finished the quest. I was the only one in the group with the actual Valley Quest book, and so that they would be able to keep their stamps even after the Quest, they made their own “Book of Stamps 2016.”Image-1Towards the end of the Quest, we had decidedly gotten lost. What happened was this: we got so excited to find the box that we skipped a few of the directions and got ourselves completely turned around. But because of that, we got to backtrack a little and my nieces learned a valuable lesson in working together.

We broke down every clue to try and understand exactly what each one meant. Did the “sliver of sky” mean the field? Could the archway be made from trees, people, or an actual cave?

Without giving too much about the Quest away, we eventually found our way to where the treasure was hidden—the very last clue. At this point, everyone put away the clues and decided to try and find the box themselves. But the clues are important, because we didn’t find the box until we decided to pick my phone back up and read the last clue over again (you become a beta tester on our new iPhone app by emailing Sara Cottingham).

But finding the treasure wasn’t even the super exciting part. The best part was trying to figure out how to get there in the first place. I let my nieces take charge of this Quest, leading me where they thought we should go. Their enthusiasm and determination to get there made me want to do more quests with them. Going out on a Quest with someone who is really excited to be Questing makes the experience even better than it already is.

We each signed the book located in the Valley Quest box, and both of my nieces asked if they could go on every Quest there was. It might take a while, because there are over 200 Quests throughout the Upper Valley, but I think they could do it.

Join me as I complete the Super Quest and do more quests with my favorite Questing partners. And don’t just read about my quests, take your kids, your dog, or yourself, and start Questing!

Some photos from the trail:Image-2

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Mariah Lang is a summer communications intern and Upper Valley native joining Vital Communities from Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia.

Valley Questing in Historical Thetford

On a normal morning, I wake up after hitting snooze roughly three times, make two pieces of toast, brew a cup of coffee, and scroll drowsily through notifications on my iPhone. My thought process on most mornings is normally that I’m not ready to face the world at 8 am.

However, last week one of the notifications waiting on my phone was a reminder to begin the Super Quest. Super Quest, which is part of Valley Quest and Vital Communities, is an amazing opportunity to complete several local treasure hunts and earn points toward prizes in the process! This year’s Super Quest takes you on a self-guided journey through the Upper Valley, encouraging you to bring friends, take a hike, make public transit a part of your Quest, and even come up with your own Quest.

Even during the early morning hours, Questing still sounded like fun to me. I decided to start my Super Quest experience with Bill Hill in Thetford, Vermont. Bill Hill counts as a historical quest (2 points) because it allows visitors a sneak peak into life on a rural sheep farm in 1800s Vermont.

I imagined what the farm may have once looked like as I walked along the trail, and the old stone walls helped build the image of something quite grand. The rolling hills felt like something from a movie, and I couldn’t help but think about what Thetford must have been like in the past and wonder if it had always been this beautiful.

When I reached the top of Bill Hill, there was a stone bench, and a plaque commemorating essayist Noel Perrin’s favorite view. It was easy to see why that was a favorite view. The top of Bill Hill shows off one of the greatest little corners of Vermont, and I’m so happy that Valley Quest led me to that location.

Making my way through Upper Valley history one Quest at a time sounds like a perfect way to spend my summer. But an even better way to spend my summer will be to also incorporate learning about the local history of the civil war, architecture, or the natural world into these beautiful days. I can do all of this and more by completing the 2016 Super Quest.

The Super Quest is the perfect opportunity to stop scrolling through drowsy notifications on your phone and start getting excited about the world around you! I can’t wait to see what other exciting things happen to me while I continue my Super Quest journey.

Mariah Lang is an Upper Valley native joining Vital Communities as a summer communications intern from Roanoke College in Virginia.

Ready to Super Quest?

If you’re an avid Super Quester, you might notice that this year’s Super Quest is a little different.

In past years, our Super Quests have been oriented around a central theme such as Civil War Quests, General Stores, etc.

This year the Super Quest is all about getting more people involved with Valley Quest. Rather than focusing on a particular theme, the 2016 Super Quest gives Questers a variety of options to get out and explore what interests them while accruing points. Questers can pick and choose from 15 available categories. These items range in difficulty from simple tasks, such as registering your Super Quest team or Questing with a friend, to more difficult tasks like writing your own Quest or hiking a mountain on a Quest.

Super Quest Patches will be awarded to all individuals and team members who earn at least 10 points. All participants who earn at least 25 points will be entered into a grand prize drawing. We will also have a special treat for the team that collects the most points by November 1!

By offering an assortment of options to explore and earn points, we hope to make the 2016 Super Quest accessible to a broader audience and to encourage new people to give Questing a try. The Super Quest has plenty to offer beginners and advanced Questers alike, so get Questing!

Super Quest 2016

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • How do I start? Go to our website and fill out the short online form to register. You can also print out a copy of the Super Quest here. We recommend that you keep track of the Quests you’ve completed and track your points on the Super Quest sheet, so you’ll want to keep it handy.
  • Do I have to have a team? No. This year’s Super Quest is not as team-focused as in years past. You’re still welcome to have a team—in fact, the more the merrier!—but it’s not a requirement this year. If you are signing up as an individual, just choose your own team name and enter “1” for the number of team members.
  • Can I double-dip and get points in multiple categories for the same Quest? Yes. For instance, if you go on a Quest in your town (2 points) that you’ve never been on before (2 points), you get a total of 4 points for that one Quest. If you took public transit to get there (5 points) and found the Quest in the Best of Valley Quest book (2 points), you would get an additional 7 points for that same Quest.
  • How do I submit my points? You have three options for submitting your points:
    1. Go to VitalCommunities.org/SuperQuest and submit your points electronically.
    2. E-mail our Valley Quest Coordinator and let her know your total point count AND which Quests you completed.
    3. Fill your point totals in the circles on Super Quest form and mail it to Vital Communities, 195 N. Main Street, White River Junction, VT 05001.

Valley Quest: Discover What’s Hidden in Plain Sight

Yesterday afternoon, as the sun set quietly over the western hills of the Upper Valley and the peak temperature of 60 degrees dropped to a cool 52, I grabbed my dog and headed out the door to begin my first Valley Quest.

A Valley Quest is as enchanting as it sounds. It’s a treasure hunt for people (and dogs) of all ages, and a perfect excuse to explore the amazing places that surround us.

On the Vital Communities website I found a Quest in my hometown of Lyme. The Grant Brook Trail is an easy hike that took me around 30 minutes to complete. Like all Valley Quests, this one comes with a set of directions that lead to a treasure box hidden at the end.

After following the map, reading each clue carefully, and, admittedly, taking out my compass, I found the treasure box and signed my name in the guest book inside. Although that may have been my goal, it was what I discovered along the way that made the true impression on my day.

While I was walking to the trail head I passed a group of Lyme Elementary students playing baseball, enjoying the nice day as much as I was.

Once I got to the mossy old stonewall that was the start of the Quest, I let my dog hop over it first, obviously eager for me to reach the other side so we could continue our walk.

As we walked, I let all of the sounds piece together to form one incredible picture of the natural world. Grant Brook babbling beside the trail, birds chirping and singing, leaves crunching beneath my feet, and even the occasional gust of wind reminded me that I’m just a little part of such a large and incredible world, and what an amazing thing it is that we are able to explore it.

The Grant Brook Trail may be short in distance, but it was the perfect way to get outside and get more connected to the region that surrounds me every day.

I went to Lyme Elementary, and even though Grant Brook Trail was always nearby, it never occurred to me to explore it. That’s the great thing about Valley Quest: It helps you discover the beauty and wonder hidden in plain sight right here in the Upper Valley.

Did you know there are more than 200 Quests literally all over the 69-town Upper Valley region? Find yours today!

Mariah Lang is a summer communications intern joining Vital Communities from Roanoke College in Virginia.