TEWKSBURY — Tewksbury resident and Shawsheen Tech senior Bobby O’Hearn has a “can do” attitude, and his Eagle Scout project, recently completed at the North Street Elementary School, is a shining testament to that.
O’Hearn has been involved in Boy Scouts for many years and when his original troop dissolved, he found another troop to work with.
“I wanted to finish scouts,” he said. “It was my goal.”
He settled into Troop 49 in Tewksbury out of St. Williams Church, led by Scout Master David Penney. Part of that goal included achieving Eagle Scout status, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. O’Hearn had earned badges over the years but some did not transfer when he decided it was time to pursue the Eagle Scout rank.
“He didn’t let that stop him,” said Richelle O’Hearn, Bobby’s mother, noting several obstacles on the way to completing his project.
To his credit, and keeping with his character, O’Hearn persevered. O’Hearn also credits his time at Camp Sayre in Milton as a major force in helping achieve the credits toward his Eagles status.
The camp provides a focus on completing prerequisites for Eagle badges with strong guidance. Parent involvement is also a key component of completing badges, said O’Hearn, as well as the support of his scout leaders.
To select his candidate project, O’Hearn had to follow specific guidelines. He reached out to the Tewksbury Public Schools to see if there was something that could enhance the student experience. North Street Principal Karen Cronin saw the opportunity. Cronin had wanted a sensory path for the school, an indoor activity trail which gives students a fun way to shake off pressure during the day.
“The path is for everyone,” said Cronin. “Teachers, specialists, special area teachers — anyone can send their student to ‘take a walk’ on one of the paths. I think it can help every learner.”
The whole project took O’Hearn more than 27 hours to complete.
Sensory paths are popping up in schools across North America.
According to Cronin, “Throughout the day, students need to be able to take a brain-break, and sometimes motor activity is a natural solution.”
Experts agree students benefit from movement in their day. Some specialists in other districts use the paths as a preemptive way to manage behaviors. The path provides some purpose and interest, according to Cronin.
O’Hearn had to submit a proposal for his Eagle project and with the help of his friends Brooke Gerry and Jason Elias, installed the path in two separate wings of the North Street during the winter break. O’Hearn, Elias and Gerry are also North Street alums. O’Hearn had planning meetings with the principal in preparation and said he was given “creative discretion” while also following guidelines for height and distance placement appropriate for the North Street third and fourth graders.
O’Hearn, a varsity heavyweight wrestler and varsity football left tackle, is planning a career as a plumber when he graduates.
“I wish we had these paths when I was in school,” he said.
The paths have colorful decals such as handprints, frogs, numbers, arrows and lily pads, and O’Hearn really appreciates their value to the students.
O’Hearn has also contributed to the North Street school with projects that don’t even count toward his badge, but still enhance the student experience, bringing him great pride. His contributions include a four square court and basketball court outside on the recess blacktop.
O’Hearn will submit his project and wait for his Eagle candidate review sometime in the spring.
Reflecting on the project, O’Hearn sums up his philosophy this way: “…just keep going — it is not about being the ‘smartest, fastest, or strongest,’ but about striving ‘to do good in the world.’”