"Water is our biggest problem," Macurak said as she stood in the ankle-deep mud. "We are digging around a natural spring. I remind the kids that Main Street here in New Windsor used to be Bath Street, and now we're on Water Street, excavating around a spring, so there's going to be water.
"The kids themselves have done most of the problem-solving out here," she said, "and it was their idea to get the pumps."
And that natural spring appears to flow as strongly as it did more than two centuries ago, when the springhouse was built.
"Careful, you don't want to pound the dirt," Macurak cautioned a couple of her students, who were toweling mud out of one of the roped-off squares. "If you do that, you might break something, and if you find any large stones leave them where they are. They may be part of the old foundation."
"We found another worm," a student reported.
"Another one?" someone else replied.
"Yeah, a worm this long," the boy said, holding up his hands. "Get outta my life, worm!"
Crossroads and cookies
On this particular Saturday, Macurak and her students were joined by a half-dozen or so guest diggers — students from Oklahoma Road Middle School, in Eldersburg.
Their curiosity was sparked when Danielle Max-Hockett, Mucurak's counterpart at Oklahoma Road Middle School, arranged a teleconference with Macurak's students, who filled her students in on the dig and what to expect when they got there.
"It seemed pretty cool, so I wanted to come out and try it," said Caitlin Hill, 12, an Oklahoma Road sixth-grader.
Ryan Connolly, 12, another Oklahoma Road sixth-grader, agreed.
"I've learned that it really takes a long time to do this stuff," he said, "and I like getting muddy and finding ... things. I mean, artifacts."
Around noon, the digging begins to wind down, but that's when the students always have something else to look forward to: home-baked cookies provided by Rachael Taggart, of the New Windsor Heritage Committee, who shows up like clockwork around noon.
"This is wonderful," Taggart said with a smile as she gazed across the shallow, mud- and water-filled excavation where the students were still working and bantering. "I try to bring cookies for the kids whenever I can. It's something I can do."
Macurak seemed especially happy that the Oklahoma Road Middle School students and a few of their parents, some of whom had never been to New Windsor before, not only showed up, but seemed to have a good time playing, and learning, in the mud.
"I think it's nice to have opposite ends of the county meet like this," she said. "I think it's great."