Baby, you were born to learn

Fest tells parents they are their child's first teacher

Fest tells parents they are their child's first teacher

October 02, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

Nicole Alsip of Hagerstown knows that what she does at home with her two small children can prepare them for school.

That's why she and her husband, Chip, have attended past Born Learning Fest for Families with Young Children events with kids in tow.

"We are always looking for things in the area that are educational and geared toward small children," Nicole Alsip said.

The Alsips are planning to take Sophie, 4, and Liam, 2, again this year to the Born Learning Fest. The Fest is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, at University Plaza Park in downtown Hagerstown. The event will be held rain or shine.

The event is sponsored by the United Way of Washington County and the Washington County School Readiness Collaboration.

The Born Learning Fest is a free event geared for families with children ages 5 or younger and features educational games, musical activities, crafts, entertainment, book giveaways, infant massage demonstrations and more.


The first 200 guests will be provided with a free lunch by Chick-Fil-A.

Melissa Nearchos, senior project manager of Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families, said in 2003 the organization she works with established a school readiness collaboration for the county.

She said they were looking for a way to work with parents of young children in hopes of improving children's readiness for school. Nearchos was especially interested in giving parents easy-to-do, low-cost or no-cost ideas. She said she found good ideas in the United Way's Born Learning program.

This is the third year the Born Learning Fest will take place in Hagerstown. Nearly 500 people attended last year.

In Washington County, 72 percent of students entering their first year of school are fully ready to do the work, according to the Maryland Model for School Readiness, she said. The state average is 73 percent.

"We're trying to make parents and the community aware of how important learning is in these early years," she said. "... As much as 60 percent of brain development occurs in that time period. It's our window of opportunity."

Kelly Redmond, Born Learning coordinator with United Way of Washington County, said many of the fest's activities show how to use regular home activities to teach children their letters, sounds, colors and numbers. Schools expect children to know these things when they enter kindergarten.

"Research shows that children who get that early education experience do far better in school and also succeed in life," Redmond said.

One activity at Born Fest is play-shopping. Armed with kiddie-sized grocery carts, the kids get to "shop" for food and go through the check-out line to help them to identify items on their shopping lists. This year, there's also a kitchen area where kids can play.

Alsip said her kids played the game last year.

"It's their favorite part, because they can be just like mom and dad," she said.

One activity Alsip said she's looking forward to this year is PNC's Mobile Learning Adventure.

"My daughter likes playing dress up," she said.

Redmond said kids can dress up as, say, an astronaut, and then stand in front of a green screen for a photo. On a computer, the green background is replaced with a photo of the moon and the result is printed. The kids get to take the photo home.

It's the most high-tech activity at the fest.

"Everything we do is very simple, so parents can duplicate it in the home," she said.

One parent is happy with the results.

"I think it's a nice program and I hope it continues," Alsip said.

If you go ...

What: Born Learning Fest for Families with Young Children

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3

Where: University Plaza Park, 32 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown

Cost: Free

CONTACT: Call 301-739-8200, ext. 26, or go to

More: Event will held rain or shine.

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