Adventures of a Young Learner

Through his lens, everything is an adventure. He is the Indiana Jones of his own universe. He is observant, he is curious, and he is working very hard to expand his knowledge of…just about everything.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to eat lunch with my friend, Leland. When Leland enters a room, you can’t help but notice his sense of purpose. From the moment he walks through the door and flashes a grin, you can tell that his wheels are turning and he’s looking for the right opportunity to become an agent of change—change that you are going to notice. He’s a restless character and he hardly touches his food before he’s out of his chair and moving around the room again, talking the whole time about what he intends to do next. You really have no choice but to try to keep up and do your best to decipher what he is telling you.


“Leland was born learning, and is continuing to expand his understanding with the help of family and friends who encourage him to look around, visit unfamiliar spaces and try new things, all the while they are ensuring his safety."

Leland, by the way, is about 21 months old. Through his lens, everything is an adventure and he is the Indiana Jones of his own universe. He is observant, he is curious, and he is working very hard to expand his knowledge of ….just about everything.


Right now he is focused on words like “please” and “thank you”, which sound more like “peas” and “tattoo”. According to his mom, he is trying out about one new word each day. Although at this point about 20 words are easily recognizable, his vocabulary likely extends to 75 words.


At 9 months, Leland was looking at lots of picture books, and would point to objects, working out the base sounds of some familiar things. He wasn’t talking as much at that point, but his gestures and expressions gave insight to what he was thinking and he was clearly developing a range of sounds to describe everything from his emotional reactions to his best imitation of a horse, imitating many of the actions and sounds around him.


As early as six months, even though there wasn’t as much vocal expression of his thoughts, he was differentiating types of objects, noticing things that seemed out of the ordinary by comparison to everything else—like a balloon suspended in air or the wagging tail of a dog. At an early age, the young mind observes and processes everything in sight.


Even in the first few weeks and months, our young explorer was learning to recognize motion, color, the meaning of facial expressions, and the differences between pitch and volume of sounds, and especially voices.


According to PA Department of Health, just shy of 1,800 new babies will be born in Franklin County this year. That means we will have many new adventurers, just like Leland, entering our community. All of them are observing our actions, learning our language, and trying their best to test and understand the rules that govern not only our expectations of behavior, but also things like gravity and spacial relationships. One thousand and eight hundred small “Indiana Jones wannabes” are on the move in our community right now asking questions like “does it bounce?”, “will she pick it up again if I drop it?”, and “if they leave the room, will they come back?”. Even if they don’t voice the questions, they are asking them and looking for the answers.


For the rest of us, this creates a lot of responsibility. Our actions and our words are the template for every young child that we encounter. The world we demonstrate is the world they will continue to create. Our kindness, sharing, and curiosity are copied and perfected, as well as our fear, anger and violence. The current reality we are demonstrating becomes the future we are projecting.


In our community we are lucky to have lots of resources to assist our young learners and their families, such as the local library, First Start Partnerships, Early Intervention services, community parks and playgrounds, Renfrew, and other great community organizations and spaces.


When I spend time with Leland, I see the promise and hope of a young mind that is developing to test ideas and solve problems. Leland was born learning, and is continuing to expand his understanding with the help of family and friends who encourage him to look around, visit unfamiliar spaces and try new things, all the while they are ensuring his safety. Every child in our community is born learning, and it is up to us to help them find ways to safely explore their surroundings and find adventure in learning so they can become agents of positive change for our community.


To learn more about United Way’s early learning initiatives, click here.

United Way
of Franklin County

Email: office@uwfcpa.org

Phone: 717-262-0015

Location: 182 S. Second St.

                 Chambersburg, PA 17201

Improving quality of lives by mobilizing the caring power of Franklin County.

We envision a community where all families achieve their potential through healthy living, income stability and early learning.

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