First-grade teacher Monica Gatti helps Amon and Kristin Edwards create fingerprint art at The Learning Center’s School Maker Faire last year.

SCOUTING AROUND: Painted rocks inspire creativity, community

    A new version of hide and seek has reached Murphy, and anyone can participate. The object is to hide and find colorfully painted rocks hidden around town, then share on social media with Murphy Rocks.
    Liz Murray, owner of Serenity Mountain Gift Shop downtown, started the project Jan. 21 after a customer saw the painted rocks in her downtown store, then told her about the painted rocks folks hide and search for in Martin County, Fla. Murray liked that the project inspires creativity, exploring and community involvement the whole family can get involved.
    She contacted the Murphy Art Center and The Wherehouse about getting involved in the project as well as the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce. She started a Facebook group called Murphy Rocks! then hid the first rock providing the clue, “under a historic chicken,” for members of the group to find it outside the Henn Theatre.
    “I couldn’t believe how many people I have that wanted to join,” Murray said.
    She is encouraging people to paint their own rocks to hide, then post a clue for where to find the rocks. To protect the rocks from the elements, it is suggested to place each one in a plastic bag before hiding. Once a rock is found, a person can either keep it or hide it again, but anyone who keeps a rock is encouraged to help continue the game by leaving another painted rock somewhere.
    “You don’t have to be an artist,” Murray said. “You can just paint a happy face.”
    Because children can be involved, she asks that the rocks are painted with child-appropriate images. She also asks that the rocks be hidden where no damage can be done to the property and so people do not trespass in order to hide or find rocks.
    As for the social media aspect, Murray is encouraging painters to mark each rock on one side with a hashtag, like #MurphyRocks, or some other way to let people know it’s part of the project.
    Joy Stein at The Wherehouse is holding the first painting party for the project from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Monday. The party is free to participate, but attendees are asked to bring their own rocks. Those who have their own paint may bring it to the party, too. Children are welcome.

Learning Center looks for makers
    The School Maker Faire is returning to The Learning Center on March 9, and the Murphy charter school is looking for anyone in the community who makes things to participate.
    The event combines a student showcase of projects – like a science fair – with booths for local crafters, inventors, bakers and other “makers” to present and share their creations, some with actual hands-on
    Last year, 50 makers from the community participated in the first School Maker Faire. Director Mary Jo Dyre said this year the goal is to have 75 makers. The event featured food vendors, crafters, technology demonstrations and even performing arts last year.
    To participate, community members must fill out a project proposal form to provide more information about what they plan to share. The project proposal form is available on the school’s website, Makers must be available to stay for the entirety of the event, from 3:30-7:30 p.m.
    She said while the school’s theme this year is Star Wars, any idea is accepted and appreciated. For details, call the charter at 835-7240.

Park is not rogue one
    The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Information Twitter account appeared to go rogue and join the national movement to discuss climate change last week. However, the account, @GSMNP, is not an official account of the park or National Park Service.
    In fact, the official Twitter accounts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – @GreatSmokyNPS and @SmokiesRoadsNPS – have been silent since the day before the inauguration.
    (The roads account did tweet this weekend as roads started closing for snow and ice.)
    The Twitter account @GSMNP actually managed by Your Smokies, which, according to owner Christopher Hibbard’s LinkedIn account, is “a group of local information portals and directory websites providing news about the Smoky Mountains.” It was created in 2005. After the retweets and tweets starting appearing in force just after noon Jan. 25, some people questioned legitimacy of the tweets and the account, going so far as calling it “fake.”
    “We are a real Twitter account dedicated to promoting the park and disseminating information about this park’s environmental concerns,” Hibbard said via phone Thursday morning. “I am not the park. I never said I was the park.”
    He and his staff reached a point where they feared for the future and needed to share information he stands behind as accurate. “I’m not looking for fame or glory,” Hibbard said. “I’m not really doing it for politics. We’re doing it for science. Science is not politics.”
    He added that in his work he stands behind the National Park Service’s mission statement, which includes education.
    According to reports, the National Park Service was told to stop tweeting after an image comparing crowd size of two inaugurations was posted. Eventually that ban was lifted.
    On Tuesday, Badlands National Park in South Dakota’s Twitter account was allegedly compromised by a former employee and started tweeting about climate change. During this time, a resistance Twitter account for the National Park Service – one maintained without tax-payer funding – started operations.
    Samantha Sinclair is Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email,; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message at 837-5122.