Mancos, Colo – This fall, the fourth grade class of Mancos Elementary is painting moose, mountain lion, and fox tracks along select sidewalks in Mancos. The tracks, along with signs and informational kiosks, will connect Mancos’s three parks – Boyle, Cottonwood, and Northside and are a result of a multi-faceted student research project on animals indigenous to the Mancos Valley.
This isn’t a typical fourth grade project. Since it is part of Mancos Re-6’s Project Based Learning initiative, it involves student and teacher participation across multiple grade levels and disciplines, including STEM, shop, and art. Project-based learning is a hands-on, student-led education approach embraced by the Mancos School District in 2019.
In addition to the tracks, kiosks built by Mancos High School’s welding class will display revolving student research and be placed at strategic spots throughout the town. Currently the class is completing one and will create additional kiosks once they are able to acquire more funding. The materials for each kiosk cost about $1,000.
The project’s roots hearken back to the formation of the master trails plan created by the Town of Mancos in 2012 and subsequently grew out of a collaboration between the Mancos Trails Group, the Mancos Schools, and the Town of Mancos. Robert Meyer, board chair of the Mancos Trails Group, envisioned the idea and is coordinating the effort with Ed Whritner, Project Based Learning Coordinator at the Mancos schools.
In 2012, the Town of Mancos created a trails master plan to help provide community access to important locales in the area. The plan called for a town partnership with a “friends of the trails” group. In 2013 the trails group formally organized under Mancos Valley Resources and became a nonprofit, using the trails master plan as a guiding document. One of the plan’s recommendations is to connect Cottonwood and Boyle Park along the Mancos River. Since then, Mancos has created an additional park north of highway 160, entitled Northside Park.
The original plan to connect the parks delineates an area that runs through private property along the river and isn’t currently feasible, said Meyer. Thus an alternate idea to connect the three parks was devised. The Mancos Trails Group purchased many of the materials with grants from and the Ballantine Family Fund and the Town of Mancos, along with private donations. The project is also augmented 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,” said Meyer.