Students dig up treasures buried under 100-year-old school in NYC

NEW YORK -- If you had to think of a good site for an archaeological dig, you probably wouldn't think of the Children's Workshop School in Manhattan, New York. You almost certainly wouldn't think of Miriam Sicherman's third-grade classroom. And you definitely wouldn't think of her coat closet. 

It's not like it's a tomb. It's not like it's a pyramid. It's a closet.  

"I'm really lucky that this one student wanted to investigate," Miriam said. 

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Teacher Miriam Sicherman and one of her third grade students. 

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"I hit pay dirt, literally," said her former student Bobby Scotto.

A couple years ago, back when Bobby was in Miriam's class, he started wondering about a little crack in the closet floor. 

"And I'm like, 'How in the world am I going to get down there?'" Bobby said. 

He began poking around with his finger, and then turned to pencils and shirt hangers. 

"And then other kids got curious and they're totally into it," Miriam said. 

For the past two years now, Miriam's students have been excavating nearly every closet in the 100-year-old school. They're finding some really old things, some more recent and some much more recent. 

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Miriam Sicherman's third graders exacate in their coat closet.

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All of it uncovered with the kind of glee rarely seen in a grade school classroom. 

"I found three pencils and an eraser stuck to Play-Doh," student Talula Mihalic said. "I seriously did!" 

"Under there, it's just black, black, mystery things and black," said student Pascal Garcia Ragara. 

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Miriam Sicherman's 3rd grade students.

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"I just don't want to stop, basically," added student Beckett Landeau. 

In fact, they're so into it, it's hard for Miriam to keep up with the Indiana Joneses. It would have made her life a lot easier if you just said quit messing around in the closet. 

"I'm actually really glad this didn't happen to me my first couple of years of teaching because that's probably what I would have said," Miriam said. "Because it's a little scary as a teacher to encourage kids to do a project that you have no idea where it's going." 

But on the flip side, she says it can lead to some wonderful lessons. In this case, Miriam says the kids got really into history and archaeology, and they got their own museum exhibit, showing off everything from antique school supplies to animal mummies. 

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Students search under a closet in of Miriam Sicherman's 3rd grade classroom. 

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Of course, there are still many more findings waiting to be found. 

But no matter what they dig up, there will never be a greater treasure than the one that stands before them every day -- the teacher with that special gift for unearthing a passion.

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.