Women United of Gloucester County held a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 22 for its fourth Born Learning Trail at Locke Avenue Park in Swedesboro.
Born Learning Trails are interactive routes for preschoolers constructed in township parks across New Jersey. They started as a way to ‘jump start’ learning for children who may not have access to early-childhood education.
“The Women United Of Gloucester County, their previous president Stephanie Lurch, made it her personal goal or mission that she wanted to see a Born Learning Trail at every park in Gloucester County,” said Women United Secretary Deborah Baionno.
“They are just trying to engage the relationship between the parent/guardian and the child as well as engaging with nature,” she explained. “So many of the children today are not given the opportunity to attend preschool … It is just a way to get them outdoors, get them engaged and get them learning activities.”
The trails offer activities ranging from hopscotch to finding objects in the park. There are also signs to help prompt social and emotional learning between child and guardian. One is standing in a circle and trying to make each other smile, or giving a child a hug when a task is completed.
“Children’s brains begin to soak in information and all the info is wired into their brains so early,” Baionno noted. “So the earlier we can start them learning, the better. It prepares them for kindergarten and for school to come. Hopefully it gets them to be more engaged with their teachers and learning.“
Women United pays $750 for each trail, in partnership with a local business or organization that matches the cost. The Locke Avenue trail’s partner is the Greater Swedesboro Business Association.
Townships incur the final cost of a trail, including type of signage and paint, and pay municipal workers for construction and upkeep.
Although the trail is created by Women United, each township is free to decide where the trail should go and how it should look. The Locke Avenue trail is one of the longest and most interactive routes.
“The trails are similar in makeup, but each trail is different and unique depending on which park they are in,” said Baionno. “We kind of guide the township and recommend the heights of the signs so the caregiver and the child can read the signs together and talk about it …We tell them they are welcome to do outlining in white writing, or they can color it in and make it super colorful. “
The next trail will open in Swedesboro and will also be funded through the Greater Swedesboro Business Association. Women United is preparing to open a trail in West Deptford and is coordinating plans for one in Pitman.
Other trails can be found at Autumn Pasquale Memorial Park in Clayton, William Wilt Complex in Mullica Hill and Township Line Park in Logan Township.