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United Way to promote early childhood learning at Hillside Park

Sandy Sayers, Director of Resource Development and Community Engagement for United Way, displays one of the "Born Learning Trail" signs.
Photo by Kathleen McKiernan

Sandy Sayers, Director of Resource Development and Community Engagement for United Way, displays one of the "Born Learning Trail" signs. Photo by Kathleen McKiernan

GREENFIELD — On June 21, a group of volunteers and community members will build a new “Born Learning Trail” in Hillside Park to offer parents, caregivers and children an interactive, playful tool to support early learning while at the town playground.

The project is led by the United Way of Franklin County in collaboration with community partners, including the YMCA, the Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters and is part of the Greenfield-based group’s participation in the seventh annual United Way Day of Action, a national volunteer program designed to promote United Way’s mission to advance education, income and health.

The United Way Day of Action occurs on June 21 annually, when tens of thousands of individuals volunteer around the world in support of the network’s mission and local programs.

The United Way Day of Action is meant to underscore how volunteers are essential to advance issues in education, health and income. It allows different chapters to team up to bring awareness to their common goals while retaining the diversity of the whole network. Each chapter has its own project.

The Greenfield project is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hillside Park on Conway Street. Volunteers will work in shifts to install the trail. Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin will officiate the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1:30 p.m.

The benefits of the learning trail are twofold. It helps promote United Way of Franklin County’s mission to support early childhood education and it helps the town revitalize the Hillside Park.

The town has focused on making the park a safer place for families after neighbors complained last year to police and town leaders that people were drawing graffiti on picnic tables, destroying property and dealing drugs in the park.

The trail will consist of 10 different signs surrounding the playground area. Each sign will have a different activity for parents and children to do. For instance, one sign, titled “Talk, Listen and Sing,” suggests kids listen to the birds and ask what are they saying? It asks whether the child can sing like the bird and asks parents to make up silly stories or songs.

At the bottom of the sign, a trail tip advises “talking and signing with children teaches them words and gets them ready to read.”

“The idea is to take an opportunity to help children learn reading skills,” said Sandy Sayers, director of resource development and community engagement for United Way.

The trail is designed to boost language, reading, problem solving and critical thinking skills for young children.

Along the pavement, volunteers will also paint a hopscotch court.

Volunteers are needed to help dig the holes for the 10 signs and to put the signs together and install them.

For more information or to volunteer, contact the United Way at 413-772-2168 or info@uw-fc.org.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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