On a recent weekday in Morristown, Fred Miller Park was alive with the sounds of summer.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department held its annual children’s water activity, Wet and Wild, near the large clubhouse, and a small crowd enjoyed the cooling effects of the Rotary Splash Pad located across Turkey Creek.
Near the pedestrian bridge that crosses the creek, several community stakeholders gathered for a quick celebration of the park’s newest facility, the Born Learning Trail.
The trail project was designed to promote early learning and family fun, according to Frankie Cox, superintendent of recreation for parks and recreation.
“Learning happens wherever a child goes, but parents, grandparents and caregivers don’t always know how to support that learning,” Cox said. “This trail will help parents, grandparents and caregivers turn field trips into fun learning times.”
The Born Learning Trail was started by the HC*EXCELL Ready By 6 Committee and consists of an interactive series of kid-friendly activities that have been incorporated into the park’s regular walking trail.
“When Mom and Dad, or Aunt Cassie or Grandpa take their favorite toddler to Fred Miller Park now, they can play fun games together that will help the child come to school ready to succeed,” Etta Baker , Ready By 6 committee member, said.
The Ready By 6 committee will publish information guides that will offer suggestions for using the trail.
Based on the latest early childhood research and endorsed by national early learning experts through the United Way of America, the Born Learning Trail is designed to help adults interact with children to stimulate the development of language and literacy and to help caregivers understand how best to support early learning in daily outdoor moments.
There are 10 signs on our Born Learning Trail, each including activities such as “See! To say! Indicate! Read!” which encourages play with letters and sounds, developing pre-literacy skills and “Hop! Toss! Shake! Stir!” which gets children’s brains and bodies moving, develops fine and gross motor skills, as well as thinking which is the key to success in kindergarten. The look! To listen! To touch! Think!” activity encourages exploration of nature, developing child’s problem-solving skills.
“The Born Learning Trail promotes fun and games, important parts of early childhood learning,” Cox said. “Research tells us that children are literally ‘born to learn’. This means that five years of education take place before they enter kindergarten. We know that what happens in a child’s early years is important — for success in life and for school readiness. And we want to help parents, grandparents and caregivers use everyday outings, including trips to Fred Miller Park, to support that learning.
Parents or guardians who need materials or information and resources about early learning programs can call the Parks and Recreation Department at 423-586-0260. The advice for use to be provided by HC*EXCELL Ready by 6 will also be available at the service.
Born Learning began in 2005 as United Way’s first national public engagement campaign. It has made available public service advertisements, materials for parents, and online tips, tools and templates to help United Way advance early childhood impact strategies.
Ready By 6 is a community partnership aimed at increasing the number of students ready to enter school. Ready By 6 is a product of the Cradle through Career initiative conducted over a three-year period (2013-16) by HC*EXCELL. The initiative was funded by grants from the Arconic Foundation, the City of Morristown and the Walters Foundation. The Ready By 6 coordinator is Tish Jones.