Learning Trails Added

PICKENS COUNTY — Preschoolers and their caregivers will have a new avenue for fun and education when two new Born Learning Trails come to the cities of Pickens and Clemson.

Born Learning is an innovative public engagement campaign created when United Way Worldwide joined forces with the Ad Council and Civitas and Families and Work Institute to create hundreds of learning trails across the county.

In Pickens County, the trails are the result of a collaboration between the United Way of Pickens County and Pickens County First Steps, a statewide public-private partnership that aims to increase school readiness outcomes for children.

The trails currently being constructed in Pickens and Clemson will make five in the Upstate.

“We have trails already in Six Mile, Liberty and Easley,” said Marian Vischer, communications coordinator for Pickens County First Steps. “The one in Pickens is at Jaycee Park and will have its grand opening on April 11. In Clemson, it’s actually right across the street from my house so it’s pretty cool to see the progress. There’s kids already playing on it and it’s not even completed. Clemson’s grand opening is April 15 at Tottie’s Place in Ashley Deering Park.”

Vischer said that both opening ceremonies will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Local officials, mayors and members of the state delegation have been invited to attend.

“We haven’t heard back from them all, but (Rep.) Davey Hiott said he would come and so did (Pickens City Administrator) Bruce Evilsizor in Pickens. We’re thrilled,” she said.

The idea behind the learning trails is simple: turn everyday things into a learning experience.

“We piggy-back off existing parks and trails,” said Vischer. “They tell us what spot would be OK and then we go in and add special signage geared towards preschoolers. These kids are already going to be there (at the park) so it just adds an additional level of interaction.”

One sign at the learning trail in Easley at the J.B. Red Owens Sports Complex reads: “Talk, Listen, Sing. Listen to the birds. Ask: ‘What are they saying? Can you sing like that?’” The “trail tip” for parents states that talking and singing with children teaches them words and gets them ready to read.

Vischer said that although the programs aren’t exactly new, word about the learning trails has been slow to catch on.

“I’ve only been with First Steps for about a year and before I came here, I had never heard of ‘learning trails’ before,” she said. “But now I see them — can see how much interaction parents and grandparents can have with these young children — I think: ‘How did I not know about this? This is so cool!’”

For more information on Born Learning Trails or to find one near you, visit bornlearningupstatesc.org.

Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.

This article first appeared March 26, 2016 in the Easley Progress.