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
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
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
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!”
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