A project that has been in the works for a couple of years is finally taking shape in downtown Pickens.
Pickens Middle School Teachers Susan Hilyer and Louise Hope are nearing the end of their “Turtles on the Town” project, which provides a scavenger hunt for turtle statues through historic sites in the downtown area.
“It’s a little scavenger hunt that basically goes down Main Street with a cutoff to the Hagood Mauldin House, a cutoff to the historic water tower, and a cutoff to the museum.” said Hilyer.
The project started as a teaching tool and has blossomed into something much bigger.
“Sixth grade was responsible for choosing 12 different turtles that are native to South Carolina and do the research on those turtles to find out what they look like, and what kind of habitat they lived in,” said Hilyer. “The eighth grade’s job was to figure out where the turtles could go by researching historic places in Pickens.”
Story lines were even attributed to each of the turtles after some hard thought and concentrations.
“The children wrote a story book about how each turtle left its natural habitat and now lives here in Pickens,” said Hilyer. “My favorite one was where a student wrote, ‘the spotted turtle was a regular turtle until he met the chicken turtle and he got the chicken pox.’”
Hilyer says she then received some much needed support from local businesses.
“Merchants paid money to have the turtles installed near their business, and that was how we raised the money to have the turtles made,” said Hilyer. “They were made by Van Wells, who is pretty well known in Greenville. She agreed to do our project because each turtle was a different species and it was quite the challenge for her.”
Turtles can be found at several locations, including the fountain on Main Street, the Pickens County Museum, and the Hagood Mauldin House. Once arriving at the locations, however, the task of spotting the turtles is up to the seeker.
“They’re small,” said Hilyer. “They are about four inches across and they are hidden in various places, so you have to follow the little tour to try to find them. They’re as cute as they can be.”
For Hilyer, the completion of this project has been long in works.
“This project has been in the brain for about two years,” said Hilyer. “My turtle partner is Louise Hope, who is also a teacher at Pickens Middle, and she and I had been thinking about this for a few years. Our principal gave us a different job this year so we would have the time and the freedom to do this project.”
The final results, however, exceeded expectations.
“It is better than I ever thought it would be,” Hilyer. “It is completely paid for with donations through the community and outside the community. I’m overwhelmed at the generosity of people when it comes to this type of project. Anybody who has heard about it has been thrilled and willing to help. Nobody has said ‘no.’”
Hilyer says the turtles may be small, but they are worth a trip to Pickens.
“We hope it will be good for tourism,” she said “That it will be one more reason to come to Pickens.”