These Moms Created a Neighborhood Camp (And So Can You!)

Hi Readers! Here’s a letter about a homemade camp started by two moms that just may inspire you —  the same way THEY got inspired last year, thanks to ideas being spread by Mike Lanza of Playborhood. (Here’s a cool post by him of how he turned his front yard into a neighborhood hangout.) If you start a camp, let us know! L. 
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Dear Free-Range Kids: I wanted to let you know that you, Mike Lanza, and the Camp Iris Way creators inspired me and a fellow mom, Karen Hoffman, to start out own neighborhood camp.  The first annual “Montara Street Camp” happened last week and was a huge success!  Not only did the campers, counselors, families and neighbors love it, but Karen and I had so much fun running it.  Of all the volunteer efforts I’ve been part of as a stay-at-home mom, this one was the most rewarding and fun.
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We modeled our camp after Camp Iris Way, and actually were in contact with Iris Way founder Diana Nemet [see below] when we were having difficulties getting our permit.  Since this was a new concept for the police and city, there were various concerns and hurdles.  However, the permit was ultimately granted and we had so much fun holding the camp in the street.  As a result of our camp, the neighborhood definitely feels closer.  Campers and counselors formed a special bond and new friendships were made.  One of my favorite parts of camp was it pushed parents to let kids walk and ride bikes by themselves, many for the first time.  I just loved watching everyone walk to camp.
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Here are links to the two local articles: HMB Review and  HMB Patch.  We made the front page of our local newspaper and have received lots of positive responses from people in town.  We are looking forward to running it again next year and hope it becomes an ongoing part of our little coastal community.  Again, thanks for being such a great inspiration!  My husband got so sick of hearing me quote your book after I read it last year.  I couldn’t help it!  – Sarah Bunkin

The Montara Sreet campers
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And here’s a note from Diana Nemet, who started a neighborhood camp last year:
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Thrilled to learn of the success of  Montara Street Camp–it’s absolutely wonderful! Reading about it brought back memories of the first year we ran Camp Iris Way. It’s definitely an incredible community-building accomplishment and I’m sure that the kids will enjoy each others company a lot more this summer than they had in the past!
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We had 73 kids attend Camp Iris Way this summer. Neighbors are still astonished that we have this many kids living just on Iris and Primrose Ways. I suspect you’ll see the numbers jump for next year’s Montara Street Camp. Our neighbors actually schedule their vacations around CIW now so that they don’t miss it! 🙂
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I suspect it might be valuable to include another link to the workplan and templates that we provided in last summer’s post. Congratulations Sarah and Karen! I’m delighted to learn of the fun you had, and agree that it’s one of the most rewarding contributions to my community that I’ve ever made.  Best,  Diana Nemet

Ugh! Now 5th Graders “Can” Go Play — Once a Month, If Chaperoned

Hi Readers! In a post earlier this week we were discussing a great tradition: Fifth graders in Davidson, N.C., who leave school on Friday afternoons and proceed to the town green for an an afternoon of just being kids. This was abruptly declared “unsafe” and ended. Here’s why, according to Davidsonnews.net:

Ms. Nivens [the interim principal] said she thinks fifth graders are too young to be allowed outside home or school without an adult. “Even though it is not a school-sponsored activity, the school still is perceived as encouraging children to be unaccompanied … and to be unsupervised,” she said.

She also worries – though she admits it is “far out there” – that unsupervised children could get into other trouble when they’re alone, such as arranging meetings with strangers they may have met on the Internet. “The world is just a different place nowadays. I just imagine that a child could be on the Internet or Facebook with someone and arrange to meet them there. That would just be a concern that I would have as a parent.”

So now, if a person can dream up a dreadful scenario, it justifies acting as if it’s about to happen? What if I dreamed up the idea that the kids, instead of going to the green, were instead picked up by their parents only to get into a multi-car crash? Sure that’s a little “out there” but it’s not completely unheard of, right? Would that justify the kids NOT getting picked up? After all, I can imagine it.

Anyway, NOW, according to this thoroughly researched follow-up piece, the Friday tradition may be revived — with a nice thick layer of bureaucratic overkill:

A new letter [from school] this week offers to allow the walks once a month – on the fourth Friday – but only if parents sign up with the school as volunteer chaperones. The school said Thursday that kids would not be allowed to walk to the Green this week, since it’s not the fourth Friday.

If they want to go on a Friday that is NOT the fourth in the month (like today), they must be picked up and driven there, or take the bus home FIRST and THEN be driven there.

So what was once a simple throng of kids being kids becomes a tangle of permission slips, regulations and minivans.Huck Finn’s got nothing on these kids!

And, as you’ll read in the story, the shopkeepers were not dismayed by unruly students. For the most part, they were delighted with the kids’ business and already miss it. What’s more, sometimes parents would meet their children downtown later, to shop or go out to dinner. WHAT’S GOOD FOR KIDS IS GOOD FOR COMMUNITY.

And as Davidson is learning: the opposite is true, too. — L.

Children outside, on their own? THIS MUST STOP!