North Adams' Born Learning Trail Offers Creative Activities
By Tammy Daniels
Four-year-old Owen Poirier skipped along the hopscotch court doing exactly what the city is hoping children will do: get engaged with the activities along the new Born Learning Trail.
The trail that opened at Noel Field Athletic Complex last week isn't just for children, though. It's meant to be a family affair. "This engages parents in their child's world of fun activities that also gets them ready for school while also getting exercise," said Amy Hall, program director of the Family Center, a part of Child Care of the Berkshires.
Born Learning Trails are a United Way campaign for developing early childhood learning and parental engagement with community partners. Started in 2005, there are trails across the United States and in a number of countries. The trails are accessible, low-impact, and have signage suggesting ways to interact with the brightly colored pathways and encourage children's curiosity.
The North Adams trail was sponsored by the Northern Berkshire United Way, one of the ways the nonprofit fundraising agency is seeking to more directly give back to community. "Born Learning Trails are a United Way worldwide initiative and there are hundreds of them throughout the United States," said NBUW Executive Director Christa Collier. "I'm so happy we now have one in the Northern Berkshires."
Hall said she'd heard about the trails for along time and worked with Collier to get one in North Adams. "We thought this location ideal with Child Care of the Berkshires right here so that the child care center can come out and the children experience that," she said. "Also the families that come to our Family Center as well can come to a playgroup and then come out and do our learning tail as well so it ties in very nicely."
The trail runs along the paved pathway at Joe Wolfe Field behind Child Care of the Berkshires on State Street. The path is a bit truncated now as work has started on the new splash park and basketball court, but it's long enough for nearly a dozen activities ranging from alphabet play to hopscotch to singing songs and telling stories.
"I love the location of this trail being here at Joe Wolfe Field, being part of the larger Noel Field Athletic Complex where the city's made some really intentional investment over the past couple years," said Mayor Thomas Bernard. "And I love the way that this harnesses that really vital connection between literacy and activity and it's such a great place ... "We're going to be able to harness the energy and creativity and motion of young people and tie that into learning and literacy in a way that's low impact."
MountainOne provided the financial support for the project and the city's Department of Public Works installed the signage. Volunteers from the North Adams Rotary Club and Child Care of the Berkshires worked on the stencils and the painting.
"Amy and I talked about this for a long time getting it into our community and she worked really hard with [NBUW officer manager] Patti Messina to get the layout and the stencils together," said Collier. "This is one place where children and caregivers can come in the community and actually have some places where learning can happen in a community setting."