Jose Luis Arcos entertained his fellow Madrid exchange students with a few tunes, including the theme from “The Sting,” at the upright piano in the parlor at the Saddletree Factory Museum during a tour Tuesday. (Staff photo by Phyllis McLaughlin/pmclaughlin@madisoncourier.com)
Jose Luis Arcos entertained his fellow Madrid exchange students with a few tunes, including the theme from “The Sting,” at the upright piano in the parlor at the Saddletree Factory Museum during a tour Tuesday. (Staff photo by Phyllis McLaughlin/pmclaughlin@madisoncourier.com)
Historic Madison was the focus of an on-foot field trip Tuesday for a group of exchange students from Madrid, Spain.

The 16 high school students arrived in Madison on Sept. 1 and will be leaving for home Saturday.

Each of the Spanish students, ages 14-15, was paired with a Madison Consolidated High School student, living with their families and learning what it’s like to live in the United States.

In March, the Madison students will travel to Madrid and stay with the families of the students they were paired with here, said program coordinator and Madison Junior High School teacher Carolyn Quigley-Alcorn.

“It’s truly a student exchange,” she said.

The program is run by CCI Greenheart International, a Chicago-based company that pairs schools for student exchanges, coordinates the application process for students, and provides insurance and liability for all traveling students, she said.

Since their arrival, the students have attended classes at the high school and have tutored at Casa Amiga in the afternoons. They are encouraged to participate in activities planned by their host families, but also have taken group trips, including an Indiana University football game on Sept. 5.

They’ve also explored Clifty Falls State Park, Hanover College, and traveled to see “Dracula” at the Actor’s Theater in Louisville.

On Tuesday, it was all about local history. The students started out at the Saddletree Factory Museum on Milton Street, learning from Historic Madison Inc.’s Rhonda Deeg what it was like for workers in the 1800s when the factory was in full operation. Deeg showed the steam-powered, belt-driven saws and machinery used to make the wooden pieces for the saddletrees, which are the wooden frames used to make saddles. She also showed how wooden clothespins were made there.

After demonstrating how to use a “shaving horse,” on which a person sits to shave wooden pieces into whatever shape is needed, she allowed volunteers to try their hand at it. Several did, eventually laughing when they realized it was a lot harder to do than Deeg made it look.

From there, the students walked through downtown to the Sullivan House on Second Street, where they toured the 1818 federal-style home of Judge John Sullivan. After exploring the cooking kitchen in the basement and rooms on the first floor, the students went upstairs to watch docent Linda Roaks demonstrate how to use a loom to weave rugs.

Several students tried their hands at that, too, and were quick to get the hang of the work.

“They’re really paying attention,” Roaks commented, as one of the boys sat down and used the machine without her assistance.

Next stop was the Shrewsbury-Windle House, where students climbed the circular stairway to see the upper floors of the mansion built by Francis Costigan. From there, the students were going to tour the Jefferson County Historical Society’s Heritage Center, where they also were to have lunch.

While walking through downtown, Maria Rodriguez, whose hosts are Lydia Wright and her family, said she’s enjoyed her stay in Madison. Rodriguez said she lives in Fuinlabrada, a town about an hour outside Madrid.

She’s been the United States in the past to visit family members who live in Miami, Fla. She chose the exchange program “to test myself,” she explained in flawless English. In her first year of high school, Rodriguez is hoping to attend college at the University of Miami, where she believes she’ll major in languages or literature.

Lucia Espejo said she plans to take her host student, Sydney Hammock, to visit the beaches of Cadiz in March. The oldest continually inhabited city in Spain, Cadiz is located about 400 miles southwest of Madrid, not far from the Strait of Gibraltar.

Quigley-Alcorn said she is pleased with how the program has gone and said she is amazed at how much better the exchange students’ English was getting.

“It has improved 100 percent,” she said. “I can only imagine how much better (Madison students’) Spanish will be” after their two-week trip to Madrid in the spring.