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Kids learn as they play at festival

October 07, 2007|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN - "Three bananas," Nyla Cummins said to herself as she glanced at her laminated grocery list and finished up her shopping. The 7-year-old steered her loaded plastic cart to the miniature checkout counter and readied her pretend money.

"I found everything on my list," Nyla told her grandmother, Georgetta Joseph.

Nyla was playing at one of the Born Learning Fest's educational play stations Saturday at University Plaza in Hagerstown. Born Learning is a national campaign designed to help parents and communities provide young children with quality learning experiences.

"This is something good for (Nyla)," said Joseph, 45, of Hagerstown. "She likes to read and it's a learning experience. She's having a lovely time."

The Born Learning Fest was an effort by United Way of Washington County, Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families, and a number of area organizations comprising the Washington County School Readiness Collaboration to respond to a documented need in Washington County for quality early learning experiences.

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Event chairwoman Kelly Redmond said according to 2006-07 Maryland Model for School Readiness results, only 65 percent of children entering Washington County Public Schools are "fully ready" to learn.

"Children are learning from the time they are born," Redmond said. "We wanted an event where we could model activities that parents can do with their children at home with materials they have at home. We are making paper bag puppets and water bottle instruments because children learn from them and people have these things at home."

Puppeteer Kathleen Jacobs of Bel Air, Md., performed an interactive show called "Magic Pots & Recycled Bottles." Jacobs said some children at the event attended all three of her shows.

"Children love repetition," Jacobs said. "They were all in unison with their responses. This is a nice event because it's so important to emphasize that learning begins at birth. (Children) are little sponges."

Melissa McElroy of Head Start of Washington County, a certified educator of infant massage, performed infant massage on about 15 babies throughout the day.

"I teach parents how to massage their babies," McElroy said. "The intent is to help bonding to help build relationships with babies and parents. Part of the point is just relaxing the baby, which helps with digestion, circulation and to build muscle tone."

Emily Bivona of Smithsburg said she attended the event seeking information about how to use infant massage to help work gas from her 2 1/2-week-old son, Brian.

"This was extremely helpful," she said. "I feel like I learned a lot."

Bivona said she found a lot of fun for her 4-year-old daughter Hannah, too.

"It's been great," Bivona said. "The puppet show was fantastic and my daughter is having a ball with the musical event. What a wonderful community thing for them to be doing. This is really nice."

More than 400 people attended the event. Sponsors provided bagged lunches and all attractions, including professional storytelling, book giveaways and healthy snack demonstrations, were free to the community.

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