Fenton's Leaps Above the Rest

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By Melissa Elkins
For Blount Today

Surrounded by finger paintings, brightly illustrated children’s books, love-worn toys and seasonal decorations clearly crafted by the young, creative mind of a child, it’s hard not to feel a burst of nostalgia when walking through Fenton’s Leap Learning Center. A family-owned and operated developmental center, Fenton’s Leap is more than a daycare or a center for learning; it’s like home.

Paul and Rachel Brown own the center. The Browns owned the center several years ago when it was known as Miss Tizzy’s, named for another of Rachel’s mother’s books. The Browns sold the center, but recently had the opportunity to buy the business back.

"God gave me the opportunity to buy my dream back," Rachel Brown said. "How many people do you know that can honestly say they love their job this much? To me it’s not work; it’s a joy to be around children."

The name of the center is inspired by Rachel’s mother, an award-winning children’s author. The name of the center comes from the title of one of mother Libba Moore Gray’s many books, Fenton’s Leap. Fenton’s Leap features a blind frog who eventually finds some glasses at the bottom of the swamp with a little help from a friendly catfish. The book is dedicated to Rachel, who wrote a story about a blind frog in second grade that her mom never forgot. Now, Libba Moore Gray’s memory will not be forgotten either through Rachel’s work and the Fenton’s Leap Learning Center.

But Rachel Brown is not the only one carrying on in her mother’s name. Sister Amy Moore Morton started the Appalachian Ballet Company and has set some of her mother’s stories to music and dance. Their brother, a former Ringling Bros. clown, also helps by dressing up as different characters once a week such as Johnny Appleseed or a cavity-riddled tooth to teach the children’s lessons in a memorable way.

Rachel’s father, retired Methodist preacher Eldon Moore, also adds his creative touch to the center. His talent for creating items out of wood enhances the center’s decorations. Some of Moore’s wooden masterpieces can also be found in the center’s mobile theatre such as the cuckoo clock and the little mouse house where characters pop out to entertain during puppet shows.

The mobile theatre is another unique feature of Fenton’s Leap; it’s hard to miss the bright purple bus that houses the theatre located right outside the main building. The theatre is equipped with Surround Sound, a fully functioning puppet stage, televisions, hardwood floor and plenty of comfortable purple seats available for the children.

Rachel also emphasizes that this is not your typical daycare or learning center. She bases her philosophy on her mother’s books, and says you should laugh and clap every time with a child. Children are supposed to be messy; it’s all part of sensory learning.

But who’s to say all the fun should be reserved for children? On Friday, Oct. 27, the Browns will host a Fall Festival open to everyone in the community. Some activities include a pork dinner prepared by Paul, potluck dishes, a Moonwalk for children and a pumpkin patch filled with pumpkins ripe for picking and carving. Come to the Fall Festival to see for yourselves all that Fenton’s Leap has to offer, not only for children but for the community as well.

Fenton’s Leap offers its services to kids from 12 months to five years of age. All of the staff members are hand-picked and chosen for their schooling in child development and childhood education with a wide range of educational and professional experience. The center has hands-on activities, educational videos shown in the mobile theatre, puppet shows, skits, two outdoor play areas, hot and nutritious meals that often tie into lesson plans and sorts of other mediums used for teaching children.

The center is certified for 60 children and is a fully licensed developmental center with qualified educated instructors in six separate classroom environments, depending on age. There are currently some openings at Fenton’s Leap, but they are filling up fast. Fenton’s Leap is located at 2934 Topside Road in Louisville, TN, and open from 6:30 a.m. - 6p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information about this center, or registration information, call 865-977-9540.

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