Born Learning Trails were developed to support language, literacy and social skills. Photos by Michael Gordon
by Amy Brown
Earth Day often includes collaborations of individual and community groups to celebrate the world in which we live, and learn to improve sustainability to preserve it. In that spirit, local community members, the city of Ventura, volunteers from the United Way and Aera Energy gathered recently to celebrate Earth Day and invest in early childhood development and education by renovating the interactive Born Learning Trail at Westpark Community Center. This colorful, educational trail features ten stations for kids and families to get out, get moving and have fun while learning in different languages and through unique activities.
The original trail was put in ten years ago, and it received a comprehensive upgrade at the event from approximately 30 volunteers, whose hands-on efforts included creating new signs, adding new paint, activities, decorations and structures. “What happens in a child’s early years matters,” said Mitchel Sloan, interim president and CEO of United Way of Ventura County. “The Born Learning Trail is just an excellent way to really utilize our amazing parks, while helping generate conversations between parents, caregivers and child. It can have an amazing impact early childhood learning, really increasing the chance of a child entering school ready to learn.”
According to Aera Energy—which has helped sponsor 12 such trails with the United Way throughout California, including in Oxnard—the trails are designed to spark a love of learning at an age that sets the foundation for lifelong learning, behavior and health. “A parent is really a child’s first teacher, and this trail gives them activities to teach kids numbers, shapes, counting along with how to get themselves moving,” said Michele Newell, Corporate Community Relations representative for Aera. “These trails fit in with our focus on education and trying to give families opportunities to learn things differently, all while getting them out and moving together.”
Born Learning Trails were developed to support language, literacy and social skills development throughout local communities, with displays offering engagement with numbers and shapes, while integrating information about exploring nature. John Thomas, a mechanic with Aera and with the company for 15 years, was among the volunteers jumping in to refurbish the trail. A father of two, and grandfather of a two-year-old, he recognized the value of these projects for young learners. “It was cool to participate in this, especially once you learned the reasoning behind it,” said Thomas. “Aera really puts effort into maintaining relationships with the community and being good stewards, and it’s a big reason why I decided to go out there.”
Sloan was enthusiastic about how the newly refurbished trail is already being received by the Westside community, where a rededication ribbon cutting ceremony was held with attendees including local families, the mayor, and representatives from First 5 Ventura County, the chamber of commerce, and the board of supervisors. “This collaboration was a true testament to the idea that it takes a village, with everyone coming together to bring this to fruition,” he said.