When United Way staff, community leaders, teachers and a group of children gathered gathered for a ribbon cutting on Nov. 19, the children were the most excited. The new Wonder Walk Trail recently installed at Sandy Springs Park play area is for them.
The Wonder Trail is situated on an old shuffle board court near the playground. Footprints painted on the concrete show the direction caregivers and youngsters should take while going through it. The children made beeline for the footprints, said Michelle Hankes, president and CEO of the United Way of Blount County.
“When children got there, they immediately ran to the footsteps and jumped on the footsteps, and the teachers went to signs and said, ‘Look at this,’” she said. “The reaction to the project was immediate. The teachers, parents and adults just embraced it.”
Hankes said The Wonder Trail is designed to guide parents and caregivers in using teachable moments all around them.
“We don’t expect children to read the signs. The sign are in a place that has the environment,” she said. “It has trees and things for children to look at but the signs are guideposts for adults to use in teaching children everything from movement, to literacy, hearing, listening and seeing.”
The United Way CEO said studies show 80 percent of the brain is developed in the first four years of life, making any educational moment important. “A lot of times at United Way we get called to help people in trouble. This is a perfect example of prevention, of very cheaply getting in front of an issue, and that’s very enjoyable,” she said. “That’s the reason to be in social services.”