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United Way Blog

The Path to Equity Can Begin with Play

The renewed urgency to address systemic racism and create equitable communities is truly needed.  There’s much to be done.

One place to start is the link between kids, exercise, education, and racial justice. Breaking the cycle of poor educational and health outcomes for some is essential to equity for all.

Why not increase access to fun learning environments with the chance for kids to play and be active? I’m thinking of Born Learning Trails, which feature age-appropriate, simple activities that can be set up outdoors or inside. Games described in English and Spanish on engaging signs are installed along a trail where adults and children can learn and play side by side.

These trails are more than just a nice idea and a good project for volunteers. Research shows that children who enter school ready to learn are more likely to achieve early reading proficiency by third grade, and consequently more likely to graduate high school on time. Early childhood education can occur everywhere a child goes, yet many parents feel like they don’t have the time or resources to do what’s needed. Being active outdoors is a well-documented, good habit to form early in life, yet for some, it can be hard to find a safe place for families to play. In the United States, communities of color are three times more likely to live in areas with limited access to nature.

United Way has established Born Learning Trails across the U.S., from Bakersfield, CA to Eau Claire, WI to Puerto Rico. United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, for example, mobilized volunteers from USAA to install a trail at Martin Luther King Park in San Antonio’s east side, an historic Black neighborhood. Along with partners like the Waukesha Sunrise Rotary Club and Deloitte, United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County has built 13 Born Learning Trails in an array of neighborhoods to promote health and educational equity and inclusion.

Now more than ever, children and adults need safe outdoor spaces to run, play, learn, and create and maintain a healthy sense of well-being. Your local United Way can help you find or build a Born Learning Trail in the parts of your community that need it most.

Inspired by what you read? Change starts with you. Take action today to make a difference in your community.