Petal's Excel By 5 Coalition spruces up Born Learning Trails


It’s been about 10 years since members of Petal’s Excel By 5 Coalition and United Way instituted Born Learning Trails at Hinton Park and Friendly Park, encouraging children to learn and explore while playing in the parks.

So when the trails needed a little upkeep after a few years of weathering, members of the Excel By 5 steering committee jumped in to lend a hand, recently spending two days repainting the trails and ordering new trail signs.

“It’s just been a number of years, and they were looking faded, so we just wanted to try to keep that up,” said Nadine Coleman, chair of the Excel By 5 Coalition. “The city helped us; they repainted the posts and put up the new signs for us.

“Generally, when you see something that looks worn or faded, you think it must not be important anymore. So we just want to try to keep that up, and it was fun while we were painting and everything.”

The trails, which are part of the United Way’s early learning components, feature 10 interactive signs that offer fun, active learning activities for young children and their families. There are also several painted features that run the length of the trails, including hopscotch grids for the kids to play on.

“(The signs) are really just pretty common-sense reminders to parents about taking advantage of everyday learning experiences,” Coleman said. “Sometimes, as parents and grandparents, we forget that every moment is a learning opportunity for children.

“Some of them remind parents of simple things, like just talking to your children, the sounds you hear in nature, that type of thing. And with the (painted areas), the children might be asked to hop through a circle or stand on one foot in the square – just basic shapes and colors. Probably the favorite one is the hopscotch; we forget how much kids love to play hopscotch.”

Coleman said her group received a good bit of positive encouragement while they were sprucing up the trail.

“There were a number of people who were at the park, and it was fun to hear them comment,” she said. “They’d say, ‘the kids love playing on that, and thank y’all for keeping that up,’ so that kind of makes it worth it.

“And the city’s Parks and Recreation (Department) is so good at helping us at any kind of project like that. So it’s just been a real good collaborative effort.”

Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Excel By 5 team is a huge help to the city’s parks and communities.

“The members of the Petal Excel By 5 Coalition are continually striving to use every avenue possible to help our children lean, grow, absorb and acquire the fundamentals that will ensure their ability to succeed in school,” she said. “The Born Learning Trail is just one of the resources available to young parents in Petal to help give them guidance while enjoying this wonderful time in their children’s lives.

“The cumulative effect of differing programs and opportunities offered by Excel By 5 is helping Petal grow as a leading community in early childhood development. But these programs don’t just happen. It takes concerned individuals with a heart for helping children and families to make these initiatives succeed. The fact that coalition members will taker personal time to painstakingly re-paint the Born Learning Trail and invest in new signage is evidence that our community cares about the future of our children.”