What would drive a group of parents to add a month of extra work and time into their already-booked summer schedules?
Finding time to go to that swimming hole everyone has been talking about, the family reunion which Aunt Rita has worked so hard to organize, the latest movie--- and just keep up with the lawn before it rains again--- is already enough in between jobs, sleep, and just getting healthy food on the table.
Yet, there is a driving force. Something that says I want something more for my children, and myself, something more than the hustle and bustle of keeping up with the latest technology or being the driver of kids to the next activity.
Something more is what 6 families, one recent college grad, and a Tree Street grandmother and Southside Neighborhood Organization (SNO) extraordinaire embarked upon in late spring of 2013.
Questions were not organized, yet were answered without asking. How can our children directly contribute and benefit from our neighbors, the land right outside our doors, our friends and family, and their plentiful skills and resources over these cherished summer months? How can we connect all these and bring our children the great healthy and exciting gift of direct connection to people and land? How can we benefit ourselves and our community with the natural abundance of learning energy in which our children provide us, free of charge? How can we not only benefit our children, but also each person in the community from the youngest to the eldest?
Such questions were answered when seeing each other in the grocery store, on the school grounds, and along the way in our community circles. Let’s get ourselves, our children, and local people together and share our talents, time, and resources! The Kids Summer Co-op seemed a natural manifestation of the need for community connection.
An e-mail was sent out to local parents, friends without children, and community organizers. It was short notice; we didn’t have long before our kids were running out the doors of the school without looking back.
The response received was from individuals who envisioned a summer of opportunities for learning and connection that could not happen without a community effort. That is where our 6 families, one recent college grad and a Tree Street grandmother and organizer extraordinaire came into action to create the 2013 Kids Community Co-op.
The first Kid’s Community Co-op activity was a day at a Jonesborough home of two children, their phenomenal parents, a rock-chasing dog, new chics and old pecking-order chickens, a bee hive, and a visiting snake.
Mid-morning, the first week of June, we were introduced to the amazing world of the beehive and its many benefits. We did not need to be told of the sticky, sweet honey in which is a common staple in many households. Yet more so unknown and an underestimated benefit is the pollination of plants in which we are all indebted and in which we depend for our wellbeing and enjoyment. The honey bee population is threatened by modern-day farming practices, which include pesticide use, we were informed.
The Co-op kids, the future citizens and decision-makers of the earth’s resources, heard and learned about how people and their environment interact and are affected by each other. The young and old minds present that day were more aware of the fragility and privilege of the natural resources in which we enjoy daily, often without thinking twice of the effort and miracle of this process. The older children, and a few brave adults, honed the bee suit, placing ourselves in the mist of busy, buzzing bees making their food and taking care of their community. A drawer with honeycomb was taken out, with the bees asking kindly to leave their hard work alone. When safe in the kitchen, spoons held by hands of all age were dipped into nature’s candy.
The second Kid’s Community Co-op activity was a day gardening in the Johnson City Tree Streets Community Garden. The kids came early to a small cottage home in the tree streets on a day which promised rain. The kids painted their favorite veggie on their individual wood signs, made in the workshop of a grandpa near and dear to one of the children. They tied beads to hang from the signs and piled them up in a wheelbarrow along with seeds to be planted, shovels with which to dig, wood stakes to make a bean teepee, and a few other fun decorations that called out, “Kids Community Garden!”
Covered with paint, and then covered with mud, the children planted with the help of the tree streets organizer-extraordinaire: watermelon, pumpkins, green beans, snaps peas, carrots, edible flowers and tomatoes. The benefits of growing your own food for a healthy body, a healthy mind, and a healthy community was discussed among smiles and seeds mixed in with soil. A sign was placed in the middle of the tomato plants that said, “Please Pick Me- Eat Healthy!”
The third Kid’s Community Co-op was a fiesta at the home of a teacher and compassionate mother of six. Hispanic foods were made and shared and games were played. Proud pictures were taken of the children who took part in learning a language and culture of a lively and colorful people who have added much value and kindness to America.
The forth Kid’s Community Co-op experience was a three day activity led by a newly graduated ETSU art student, another great talent and interest shared with the ever budding minds of eager children ready to put their hands in clay and form their imaginations into a tangible item. A father and entrepreneur of a quaint bed and breakfast in Jonesborough connected local resources to bring this vision into fruition. A Johnson City family offered their back and front porch for the art to be developed and defined. Older children helped the younger children work the clay. The last day a homemade fire pit was constructed for the clay creations to be hardened and completed. An appreciation for the process and completion of art was had by all.
The last Kid’s Community Co-op activity was hosted by a parent who extends herself for the benefit of local community by organizing festivals to display and sell local art. She organized the kid’s activity with the same talent and flare. Shakti in the Mountains came to demonstrate and engage the children in yoga poses. After having expanded their minds and bodies, the children peacefully made papier maché vases and then practiced further body and mind health with a local Kung Fu instructor.
Parents, neighbors and children were all blessed with the outcome of the effort, time, and care extended by just a little extra time given by the parents and people of our community. All the busy summer schedules and in between the bustles of modern daily life, parents and community folk pulled together for a great experience. Each person contributed their part, their talent, which amalgamated into a summer of fun and learning that would have been otherwise unavailable or costly. We hope to inspire other communities to do the same for their children and themselves.