Encouraging Early Childhood Development with Born Learning Trails

These trails provide learning opportunities in public spaces to encourage education and activity.

Mississippi is one of few states with no state funding for early education. Yet the first five years of a child's life are critically important for brain development -- and developing a love of learning. Therefore, we are looking for creative ways to encourage parents to promote early childhood education everyday. Installing Born Learning trails in our public parks will provide an opportunity for parents/caregivers to engage in fun learning opportunities with their young children. These activities will encourage reading and math skills, as well as physical activity. The trails also enhance our public spaces, encouraging families to spend more time in parks within our communities.

Born Learning trails can be purchased from United Way Worldwide for $1,450 each. My United Way covers 7 counties and several communities. The $25,000 from State Farm would allow us to purchase 12 trail kits, as well as the other materials needed to install them in the parks. The remaining funds would be used for an educational campaign to create awareness of the Born Learning trails and their locations and to encourage families to get out into the parks and engage in the activities. This campaign will also provide general information about the important of early childhood development for lifelong success. The educational awareness portion of the campaign will also target community and business leaders in an attempt to create community support for early education in other avenues.

Because early childhood development is so critical to the lifelong success of a child, this project has the potential to literally change lives in our communities. We know that children who cannot read on grade-level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. We also know that one of the key determinants of third-grade reading scores is kindergarten readiness. Increasing our community's awareness of the importance of early childhood education will get the entire community on board with supporting our young children. The Born Learning trails will provide a concrete opportunity for families to engage their young children by engaging in learning activities geared toward early childhood. In addition to the activities in the park setting, families will learn how to make learning a part of their everyday lives. Children in our community will be better prepared for kindergarten, reading on grade level, and more likely to graduate high school and be successful.