July 24, 2013
Two Wentworth students recently completed co-ops where they designed a playground for the JP Manning Elementary School in Jamaica Plain. Working in partnership with the Boston Schoolyard Initiative, Wentworth’s Center for Community and Learning Partnerships, and JP Manning, Chris Mara, a junior architecture student, and Ashley Stowe, a junior interior design student, acted as community designers for the elementary school.
Before starting the design process, Stowe and Mara researched “play” and observed the children at JP Manning several times. They listened to input from parents, teachers, and the principal when designing the master plan. Everyone was interested in acquainting the children with the outdoors.
“We had to consider what children want and how are they going to benefit from it,” said Stowe. Both Mara and Stowe said it was difficult to remember what they liked as children. Watching kids at the school play on trees while ignoring other playground equipment reminded them to keep it simple.
“Studies have proven that kids pay attention better outside, so I think this will have a huge impact on the kids,” said Mara.
Working on an outdoor space forced Stowe and Mara to consider aspects of design they hadn’t thought about before, such as weather conditions and landscaping. The duo focused on making the exterior of the school more welcoming, while allowing children to interact with nature.
Stowe and Mara quickly realized that the parking lot, where buses, cars, and children converge, could be redesigned to make the area safer. Currently, Mara and Stowe are testing various parking lot designs by placing cones around the lot.
Some of the designs, such as a wooded trail, are already being implemented at the school, and larger projects will be started once fundraising begins.
“The school is in my neighborhood, so it’s cool to work on something that will make a change that you can see for the people that spend five days a week there,” said Mara.
- Dennis Nealon