United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

September 19, 2014

Wild World of Learning in Waltham

The road to school readiness can be as easy as a walk in the park! Visit our new Learning Trail in Waltham, or turn a visit to your local playground in a Brain Building Zone for children by exploring the shapes, colors, and sounds of the natural world.

Tips for Brain Building at your local park:

  • Look for shapes in the clouds
  • See how your shadow changes when you move
  • Compare the different colors and shapes of leaves from the trees
  • Look for different shapes in the signs or playground equipment
  • Count the steps from car to playground

Surrounded by area children, families, volunteers and supporters in Nipper-Maher Park, Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy along with Sallie Mae Chairman and CEO Raymond Quinlan and United Way Chief of External Affairs Jeffery Hayward cut the ribbon on a new and interactive early education learning trail. The Learning Trail is designed for children under the age of six and provides early learning opportunities through fun interactive activities, games, and physical challenges that exercise both the body and mind to support school readiness.

“We are happy to partner with the United Way and Sallie Mae to bring this fun and educational trail to Nipper Maher Park,” said Mayor Jeannette McCarthy. “This is the latest addition to the recreational opportunities at Nipper Maher Park.”

“We welcome partners like Sallie Mae and the City of Waltham to help give the strongest start to young children in our region,” said Jeff Hayward, Chief of External Affairs, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “The science shows that doing learning activities together does a lot more than develop skills and strengths that prepare children for kindergarten – it actually builds connections in the developing brain. We’re proud to join Sallie Mae in bringing “brain building” in such a fun way to this community through the Learning Trail.

The official opening of the Learning Trail is the culmination of a two year project and partnership between the City of Waltham, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and Sallie Mae—the nation’s leading saving, planning and paying for college company. In addition to climbing obstacles and tunnels, a dinosaur fossil dig and talking tubes for children, the Learning Trail supports and engages parents by promoting ongoing engagement in and exploration of colors, letters, numbers, the natural world, and physical fitness activities.

The Learning Trail was made possible through a $40,000 grant by The Sallie Mae Fund, the philanthropic arm of Sallie Mae. With a facility in nearby Newton, Sallie Mae has been part of the local community for more than a decade.

“The development of the Learning Trail has been a labor of love for our employees here in Massachusetts who are passionate about giving back to the local community,” said Raymond Quinlan, Chairman and CEO, Sallie Mae. “What’s more, by helping our youngest students develop skills and excitement around learning, we prepare them for success down the road including achieving the dream of a higher education.”

The project is also an extension of United Way’s “Brain Building in Progress” initiative, a public/private partnership of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and community leaders. This statewide, public-private partnership aims to raise awareness of the importance of the first few years of a child’s development to their future success – and the region’s future workforce and prosperity.

Weston & Sampson and Forte Landscaping and Construction led the engineering and installation of the Learning Trail.  For more information on the United Way’s “Brain Building in Progress” initiative, please visit www.brainbuildinginprogress.org.

For information and resources to build a plan to save and pay for college, visit www.SallieMae.com/planforcollege.

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