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Mancos schools, trails group and town partner on trails project

Student paintings connect town’s parks

Mancos fourth graders took to the sidewalks this fall, painting images of moose, mountain lion and fox tracks in an effort to connect the town’s three parks.

Along with the painted tracks, signs and informational kiosks will be installed along the paths to Boyle, Cottonwood and Northside parks. The paintings, signs and kiosks are a result of a multifaceted student research project on animals indigenous to the Mancos Valley.

The first kiosk, in the process of being built by Mancos High School’s welding class, will display revolving student research and be placed at strategic spots throughout town. Additional kiosks, which cost about $1,000 each, will be built once more funding is acquired.

This unique project is part of Mancos Re-6’s Project Based Learning initiative. It involved students and teachers across multiple grade levels and disciplines, including STEM, shop, history and art. Project-based learning is a hands-on, student-led education approach which pushes students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, learn teamwork and improve their self-management skills.

The student project was developed through a collaboration between the Mancos Trails Group, Mancos schools and the town of Mancos. Robert Meyer, board chair of the Mancos Trails Group, developed the initial idea and has been coordinating the effort with Ed Whitner, project based learning coordinator at the Mancos schools.

The project was inspired by the master trails plan created by the town of Mancos in 2012. The trails master plan’s goal was to provide community access to important sites in the area. The plan called for a town partnership with a “friends of the trails” group, which was formally organized as a nonprofit in 2013 under Mancos Valley Resources. The plan called for a path connecting Cottonwood Park and Boyle Park along the Mancos River and led to the creation of Northside Park, north of U.S. Highway 160.

The original master trails plan concept to connected the three parks required utilizing private property. Because that isn’t currently feasible, according to Meyer, an alternate path was devised until consent can be negotiated for the full river walk. Students used this path for their paintings.

The Mancos Trails Group purchased many of the materials used for the student project with grants from the Ballantine Family Fund and the town of Mancos, along with private donations. The project was also supported by a conservation education program through San Juan Mountains Association.

“Part of our mission is to foster the next generation of trail stewards. We are just looking for opportunities, wherever we can find them,” Meyer said in a press release.

The Ballantine family owns The Journal.