Thursday, September 26, 2013

A 17 year dream at the Manning

Last week a ribbon cutting was held at the Joseph P. Manning School  in Jamaica Plain in celebration of the school’s new walking path.  Recently I caught up with Marvin Mitchell, the special education administrator who headed the project, to learn more about the path.

Mr. Mitchell has been working at the school for 17 years. When he arrived he noticed all the green space available at the Manning. “We have a green campus. You can see deer, turkey and other wildlife in the area,” says Mitchell.  “I always wanted to put this space to use.”

It wasn’t until 2008 that plans were made to create an outdoor space for teaching. Mr. Mitchell sent a proposal to the Boston Schoolyard Initiative requesting funding for the ‘The Manning Walk through the Woods,' which would include areas for writing, science, and music.  Ross Miller from the Schoolyard Initiative approved his plan and it was a go.  “This project was a 17 year dream of mine and a 5 year goal, ” says Mr. Mitchell lightheartedly.

Today the Manning Walk through the Woods is a natural outdoor classrooms along a pathway where students can learn in a soothing environment. “The Walk through the Wood is especially helpful for our students with behavioral challenges and emotional impairments who, with an adult, use this natural space to reduce their anxiety. It helps them make responsible decisions.” This project aligns with the school culture that is adamant about incorporating social-emotional curriculum in the classroom. “We believe that social-emotional classes are not just beneficial to students with impairments, but to all students.”

 The staff and students are happy with the finished product and thankful to all those who contributed. It has become a great refuge not only for the students, but also for the teachers and staff as well. “The Manning School has created an exploratory outdoor teaching and learning site that demonstrates and promotes environmental sustainability and we are all grateful," ends Mitchell.

This project was made possible not only with the help of Boston Schoolyard Initiative and school staff, but with the assistance of volunteers from Boston Cares and graduate students from Wentworth Institute who helped with the design.

You can view the video of the ribbon cutting here: