Learning trail paves path to education

Published 7:21 am Friday, July 9, 2010

Children giggled as they chased each other, cheered as they played games and shrieked at the exotic animals as they enjoyed the celebration for the opening of the new Born Learning Trail.

The Born Learning Trail, which goes along the Mill Pond path from the bear statue to the end of the library, was started by the United Way in conjunction with the Early Childhood Initiative to increase awareness and practice of pre-kindergarten education. Mayor Tom Stiehm performed a proclamation at the Horace Austin Park gazebo dedicating the path to early education.

“What I think (early education) does is it helps preschool kids learn and get on the right track for learning,” said Stiehm. “The earlier you get them started, the easier it is for them when they start school.”

Each light post along the path is now adorned with two signs, one in English and one in Spanish, that give parents or daycare providers educational questions to ask their children while walking the path. In addition, a hopscotch court was painted on the path near the library.

“We are promoting early learning and literacy, and it’s really fun. We’re reinforcing that it’s a really fun thing to know your letters, that it’s a really fun thing to put those letters together into words and encouraging kids that are really little to think about themselves as readers,” said Mary Anne Law, director of the Parent Resource Center.

The trail was funded by a grant from the Hormel Foundation. Signs were made and designed by Precision Signs.

United Way hopes that methods of early education like the signs will improve children’s’ future, as well as improve the community, said Chris Grev, Mower County United Way marketing specialist.

“It’s never too early to teach your children. There are startling statistics that children that are ready for kindergarten by age six will be successful, but children who are not ready will always be playing catch up,” said Grev. “Every dollar spent on early child development will save the community $17 of investment later on by preventing lots of problems in later grades.”

To celebrate the dedication, several activities where held for children and parents immediately afterwards in the park. The activities included tossing a bean bag, scrounging through hay for coin and a demonstration by the Minnesota Zoomobile. The activities where staffed by volunteers from United Way, Americore Vista, the police department and Mower County Public Health.

Public health officials were also representatives of the event’s place in the larger Bike Walk Week that began this week with the celebration.

Bike Week is week-long schedule of events designed to promote healthy lifestyles and help reduce carbon emissions. Bike week will continue with the 12th Annual Shooting Star Trail Ride on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. in Adams City Park. Registration forms are available at Rydjor Bike.

Later that day, Adams Community Pool is offering a free open swim from noon to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.

On Sunday, the Family Bike Ride to Marcusem park will meet in the Mill Pond Parking lot at 12:15 p.m. Tickets will be available for purchase to watch a game featuring two Austin’s Amateur Teams, the Austin Grey-hounds and the Austin Blue Socks, at the park.

Also on Sunday, Austin can get a taste of local grown produce at the Oak Park Mall Farmer’s Market taking place at 1301 18th St. NW. at 4 p.m. The Farmer’s Market will meet Monday from 4 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. at Oak Park Mall. The Farmer’s market will again be hosted from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday at the intersection of Main and 1st Ave NW from 4 to 6 p.m.

Austin residents can take a load off their feet on Wednesday, because AMCAT is offering free rides on their buses from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. To contact the bus service for route information call 507-433-2379.

Finally, the week’s last bike events will be at Austin High School next Thursday. The cafeteria will hold a Bike Helmet Safety Fun event from 11 to noon and 1 to 2 p.m. while the south parking lot will host Bike Safety Day Camp from noon to 2 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. Austin Police Department Officers Mike Tischer and Todd Clennon will lead the day camp.