Oak Mountain teacher, student build beeping eggs for blind Easter hunt

Oak Mountain Intermediate School teacher Stephanie Hardwick-Goldblatt, left, and student Rachel Hyche traveled to the National Center for Explosives Training and Research earlier this month to help construct electronic beeping eggs for Easter egg hunts for blind children. (Contributed)

Oak Mountain Intermediate School teacher Stephanie Hardwick-Goldblatt, left, and student Rachel Hyche traveled to the National Center for Explosives Training and Research earlier this month to help construct electronic beeping eggs for Easter egg hunts for blind children. (Contributed)

By CASSANDRA MICKENS / Associate Editor

NORTH SHELBY — It’s not every day that a teacher and student are invited to the National Center for Explosives Training and Research to help make Easter egg-stra special for blind and visually impaired children, so naturally Oak Mountain Intermediate School teacher Stephanie Hardwick-Goldbatt and student Rachel Hyche relished the opportunity.

Hardwick-Goldblatt, a Shelby County VI teacher for visually impaired children, and Hyche, a visually impaired student, traveled to Huntsville earlier this month to help construct electronic beeping eggs for Easter egg hunts for blind children.

The eggs will be used in the  North Shelby Baptist Church and Alabama Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired’s annual Beeping Easter Egg Hunt set for April 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Triple S Farms in Wilsonville. Beeping Easter Egg Hunts will be held in three other locations throughout the state in April and will include lunch, a multi-sensory puppet show and other activities. Blind children and their sighted siblings are invited to participate, and all sighted children will be asked to wear a blindfold during the hunt.

The Alabama Chapter of the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives hosted the egg construction project, which was initiated by Hyche’s father, ATF special agent David Hyche.

State, federal, and local police explosive experts along with military bomb technicians construct the beeping Easter eggs each year. The project is titled “The Rachel Project” in honor of Rachel Hyche.

Hardwick-Goldblatt said she and Rachel also worked on mobility skills with cane travel in the large NCETR complex during the visit, and Rachel delivered a speech on assistive devices for blind students at Oak Mountain Intermediate. Rachel travels throughout Oak Mountain Intermediate independently with her cane, and the school has equipment to make Braille and tactile material so that Rachel can have the same lessons and materials as other students.

“Our school system has done a wonderful job with Rachel, and this is not the story I normally hear from parents in other areas,” David Hyche said. “The rate of gainful employment for blind people is extremely low, but with Rachel’s determination and great teachers and administrators, the sky is the limit for her.”

Also during the visit, Rachel brailled the Pledge of Allegiance for the audience.

“I was lucky enough to tag along,” Hardwick-Goldbatt said. “It was fantastic and it was amazing to see science in action.”

For more information about the Wilsonville Beeping Easter Egg Hunt, call (256) 503-5568 or email dvmays@gmail.com.