Bluffton students put Daufuskie sites on Google map

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comMarch 10, 2013 

Earth to Google: How come you can't find information about historic sites on Daufuskie Island?

H.E. McCracken Middle School teacher Pam Davis asked the question after her husband took her on a tour of the island for her birthday.

Davis was shocked by the dearth of online information about the tiny Sea Island that has been designated as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places because of its Gullah and Civil War history.

"There was nothing on Google Earth," Davis said. "So I thought, 'What a perfect opportunity for a unique and engaging project for students to work on.' "

Ninth-graders from Davis' Google applications class at H.E. McCracken in Bluffton are now about a month into a semester-long project, creating 3-D models of historic sites on Daufuskie Island to upload to Google Earth. The class traveled to Daufuskie on Feb. 25 to collect measurements, pictures and GPS coordinates of the locations.

Haig Point covered the cost of the ferry ride for students.

"People will now be able to find these locations on Google Earth and click a link to a website students will set up, and learn the history of each location," Davis said.

Student Liz Shrieve, 15, pulls up a satellite image of Daufuskie on her laptop and begins searching for GPS coordinates for some of the sites. Then she opens an application that will allow her to sketch a 3-D model of the praise house beside the historic First Union African Baptist Church to upload to Google Earth.

The praise-house tradition traces its origin to antebellum times, when slaves seldom were allowed to attend services with whites or to congregate in large numbers, because of plantation owners' fears they might hatch a rebellion. Instead, slaves could assemble in a modest house or cabin on a plantation's row of slave quarters.

When the class is finished, people will be able to take a virtual walk around the buildings from their computers, tablets or smartphones.

Researching the island has been tricky but rewarding, Shrieve said.

"Daufuskie is just a small island off the coast of South Carolina and ... finding things on just little Daufuskie has been really difficult," she said. "But it's definitely worth it. There's a ton of history, and for other people to learn that, like we are, is very rewarding."

She said the class has also taught her and her classmates about maps and architecture and how to use spreadsheets and 3-D modeling applications.

The class also has experimented with geocaching -- a treasure-hunting game of sorts, in which travelers use a GPS device to hide and seek containers with other participants.

"They go and take something from the geocache, such as little toys or knickknacks from the area, and leave something for the next person," said Colleen Beck-Ungvarsky, district educational technology coordinator.

"It's something fun for families to do in year-round touristy areas like ours. By doing this, students are able to promote community and activity in this area ... drawing people to these historic sites, which many might know about or cannot find."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at

Related content:

Beaufort County school board gets iPads to go paperless: Jan. 11, 2013

District's iPad plan puts devices in core classes, involves months of teacher training: May 21, 2012

Pam Davis' Google Apps class page

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