Cleveland and Bradley County now have three community learning trails since the second and third trail were completed Friday.
Trails were developed at Fletcher Park and at the Blythe Family Support Center. They join the first of these trails, which is located near the People for Care and Learning playground and new bathroom facility on the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway. That trail consists of a small extension of the Greenway with informational signage designed with specific themes and helpful tips to prepare their children for school.
Each of the new trails also has this informational signage with a total of 11 signs. The themes of each sign is supported by tips on how to put the suggestions listed into practice with children.
“For example, one of the signs that has the theme ‘Look for shapes in the world around you’ will suggest ways for parents to talk to their children about different shapes,” explained Sarah Haratine, AmeriCorps VISTA of the United Way of Bradley County.
The United Way of Bradley County has been instrumental in developing the learning trails as part of its early childhood education initiative. Funding for the trails has come from a special grant from the Rotary Club of Cleveland.
Research shows that children enter school more likely to succeed academically when caregivers provide them with early learning tools. United Way, working with the Imagination Library to put free, age-appropriate books in the hands of children up to the age of 5 has been one of the early learning tools provided.
“We know that children who are read to at an early age, and learn to read at an early age, develop better skills that prepare them for school,” Haratine said. “We feel that these learning trails will have the same effect with these children.”
Each trail features signs printed with playful, engaging activities based on early learning outcomes. The signs include both caregiver and child components; caregivers learn practical tips to implement with their children, both at the trail and in a variety of other settings. There also are activities for caregivers and children to complete together.
Two more trails are planned, one at Mosby Park and the other at the Church of God Headquarters.
“We appreciate the Rotary Club of Cleveland for their commitment in helping our community through many local initiatives including this learning trails grant,” Haratine said. “The club’s grant will go toward the cost of these four new learning trails.”
Along with the funding provided by the Rotary Club, volunteers from Target spent a portion of the day Friday placing the signs along the learning trails.
A special ribbon cutting was held at the Blythe Family Support Center site late Friday afternoon.
To find out more about the learning trails program, or other United Way of Bradley programs designed for youth, contact Haratine at the United Way office at 423-479-2020.