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Born Learning Trail Matures

FULTON, NY – The Success By 6 Born Learning Trail started to develop earlier this spring. On Tuesday, it began taking shape.

The trail being constructed in Fulton’s Hulett Park, is one of only three in New York State.

When completed, the trail will consist of 10 learning stations utilizing the surrounding environment to promote learning for youth five and under, according to project coordinator Ali McGrath.

Artist William Mihalko creates the shape for the hopscotch game at one of the activity areas along the Learning Trail.
Artist William Mihalko creates the shape for the hopscotch game at one of the activity areas along the Learning Trail.

“Each sign, adorned with cartoon animal characters, along the trail encourages the children to do different activites,” she explained.

On Tuesday, a group of volunteers, including the signs’ artist William Mihalko, were busy getting the trail ready for its grand opening late next week.

“I tried to color coordinate the signs with the existing colors of the park,” Mihalko told Oswego County Today.com. “The signs consist of an animal and instructions for the children to finding certain flowers or trees, count and other activities. Some of the signs along the trail are things to do with your child. Some of them are activities like ‘Hop, Skip, Clap, Move,’ which will be over by the cement pad. It will have a hop-scotch design on part of it.”

Children can also identify letters of the alphabet and different geometric shapes on the pad.

“The concept is to give the children something fun to do and help them learn some of the fundamentals of education before they enter school,” McGrath added.

Mihalko had done a series of animals for signs for another project.

“There are sort of wild animals, zebras, monkeys and giraffes and so on. Last year, we did another set for Broome County; they were all teddy bears. Ali found out about it on-line, Broome County had posted theirs and she saw it,” Mihalko said.

The Johnson City resident said since he’s been working with the Greater Oswego County United Way, he received a call from the United Way of Toledo, Ohio.

They have ordered five sets of signs for their trails, he noted.

“This isn’t really a business I intended to get into,” the retired art teacher laughed. “I just finished cutting out the 50 signs and now I have to paint them by the end of the month. Then I have to drive to Jamestown; they will meet me there to transfer the signs. I’m afraid to mail or ship them. I am afraid they’ll get damaged.”

He had done some work in his area for different organizations, including a display for Santa Claus at the mall, he explained.

“The lady who was in charge of that is a member of the United Way board down there. So, when they were looking for someone to do signs for the United Way, she said, ‘Bill Mihalko did Santa Claus Land for us so why don’t you call him.’ So that’s how all this got started,” he said.

His hand is sore from cutting out so many signs, he admitted.

He bought himself a new, industrial strength, jigsaw to help make things easier, he said, adding that now he can screw several signs together and do them all at once.

Morgan and Jonathan Mears outline some letters at one of the stations along the Learning Trail.
Morgan and Jonathan Mears outline some letters at one of the stations along the Learning Trail.

“Northern Concrete donated the concrete for the pad and workers from the city of Fulton poured and set the concrete (for a 22-foot by 17-foot pad). Lou Baldwin of Baldwin Masonry donated his time and talents to install the posts for each learning,” McGrath said. “The Wal-Mart Super Center in Granby gave us the grant (a $3,000 Volunteering Always Pays grant).”

Because of inclement weather conditions, the pad actually had to be torn out and replaced, she said.

“That was really great of them. They really took their time and made sure everything was perfect. The city workers were great, too. They were really enthusiastic about the project, they wanted it done right,” she said.

Funding and assistance have come from various other sources, she added.

As project coordinator for the United Way, McGrath has a lot going on.

“But, this has kind of become my own baby project,” she added.

Born Learning is a national public engagement campaign built on awareness, education and action to help parents, caregivers and communities create learning opportunities for young children.

For more information on the Success By 6 Program or the Born Learning Trail, call 593-1900.