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Games, music & art >> Connect

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Kristi Anderson, at right holding Barney, appreciates seeing her neighbors at least once a day from a distance while they come together to sing. With her, from left to right, son, Josh (holding Boomer, the white dog); daughter, Taylor; and husband, Scott. One day, Caitlin Nightingale, whose parents live on Isabel Ave. and who is without a studio due to COVID-19, offered to snap photos of families on their front steps, part of her #frontporchproject. (Photo courtesy of Caitlin Nightingale Photography)

Play a game together with your neighbors when you join in the LoLa Scavenger Hunt. “Walks outside are still allowed, and are good for your physical and mental health. I intended this scavenger hunt to bring an element of novelty and excitement to an ordinary walk in the neighborhood, and also encourage neighbors to walk farther and longer,” observed local artist Jinjer Markley. “Also, it’s a game that we can play ‘together,’ and even check on each other’s progress by following the hashtags. My hope is that more frequent distance-greetings with our neighbors will make us all feel more like part of a community.”

Markley has lived in the Wonderland Park area of Longfellow for over six years with her husband Presley and her 13-year-old daughter. She was inspired by a similar activity in Lexington, Ky. where her mother lives. As Longfellow already has an established group of artists, it was easy to replicate the neighborhood game here.
She got enough volunteers to run two concurrent scavenger hunts – one in upper Longfellow, and one in lower Longfellow. The hunt started on April 15 and will continue through May 15.
“Go on walks in your neighborhood, looking in windows for art. Don’t forget to say hi from at least six feet away if you see a neighbor – even if it’s just with a wave. If you find art in a window, take a selfie with the art in the background – try to find all of the artworks on the scavenger hunt flyers, visible at www.jinjermarkley.com/lolaqac. If you post the selfie on social media, tag it #lolaquarantineartcrawl or #lolaqac. You could follow the tags to see who else is out and about in your neighborhood!”
The maps are also available online at the League of Longfellow Artists (LoLa) Facebook page or www.LongfellowNokomisMessenger.com.

Neighborhood sing
Each night at 7 p.m., neighborhood join in the Seven Oaks Front Porch Sing.
Kristi Anderson, who has lived on Isabel Ave. for three years, was inspired by news reports of Italians singing on their balconies, and people singing in Spain and Israel. When she heard about the local idea of singing “Imagine,” she pulled out the email list from National Night Out and suggested they step out onto their front steps or yards, sing and dance together.
“We have a pretty enthusiastic group of people,” said Anderson. “It’s nice to see your neighbors out there.”
The sing started with Isabel Ave. homes and stretched out from there. Anderson sends out an email each day with a list of 3-4 songs, lyrics and links to song videos. Fellow resident, Phil Hide, who also lives in the middle of the block, has taken over setting up a speaker to share the songs via Spotify each evening. They’ve done the Beatle’s “Here Comes the Sun” a few times, knowing it is a song some hospitals play when patients are released or removed from ventilators. In mid April, they sang a song from local musician Nachito Herrera, who returned home after COVID-19 hospitalization. For fun, they’ve also done the Hokey Pokey.
At the end of each Sing, they clap together in gratitude for frontline workers.
Anderson is glad to have an updated email list of neighbors. Sophia Kim used the list in April to put together a care package of prepared food for her friend – a single parent of a 12- and 14-year-old who has been working double shifts at the Hennepin County Medical Center emergency room. More than a dozen neighbors contributed to that effort. Neighbor Ann Prosser used the list to get the word out that Blue Cross and Allina were seeking homemade masks and to share other resources for making them.
Anderson includes a bit of art in her emails, as well: a photo of the painted rocks she sees while out walking her dogs. She began attributing them to the Rock-Painting-Artist Fairy – who turned out to be neighbor Gina Jorgensen.

In related news:

 

Lola Art Crawl Cancelled for 2020 as Alternative Formats Explored

Uncertainties and safety concerns around COVID-19 inform tough decision

On Tuesday, April 14, the steering committee for the League of Longfellow Artists (LoLa) notified artists
and supporters that they are cancelling what would have been the 12th annual LoLa Art Crawl originally
scheduled for Sept. 19–20, 2020. Given the high likelihood of a fall resurgence, or simply a continuation,
of COVID-19 infections, they felt that it would be risky and impractical to invest time and money in preparing for the crawl as usual. Instead, they will be exploring other ways to share the creative output of
LoLa artists with the community.

Artists have been understanding of the decision as they are coping with the effects of the coronavirus and
physical restrictions in their own lives. “I am disappointed and heartbroken,” said Maya Brown of mayamade.“I do however understand and think it’s the best decision for everyone.”

The crawl has been an annual event since its founding in 2009, and the committee members—Steve
Clark, Lisa Anderson, Sharon Parker, Sue Romain, Chris Miller, and Ken Wenzel—came to the decision
to cancel it with a degree of disappointment and resignation.

The decision was informed by a few realizations: (1) Public health concerns around welcoming strangers
into close proximity inside artists’ yards, homes, studios and small businesses; (2) Uncertainty about what
lies ahead and the likelihood that it would have to be called off as we got closer to the date; (3) The financial
hardship faced by our neighborhood businesses, which provide a significant portion of the funding
that makes the crawl possible. “Frankly, we didn’t even want to ask,” said Parker about soliciting sponsor
donations.
Normally, if the crawl were to go forward as in the past, volunteers would need to start preparations now.
“Spending thousands of hours of volunteer time between now and September only to cancel is not the best
use of our resources,” said Bob Schmitt in response to the announcement. Schmitt is past administrator
and co-founder of LoLa along with Anita White.

LoLa artist Megan Moore stood next to her mural on the Minnehaha Scoops building earlier this year.
The artwork wraps around the building, see it at 3352 Minnehaha Avenue.

This spring and early summer, the organizers will be communicating with LoLa artists and other stakeholders in various ways, using technology that has become increasingly common in these days of coming together while distancing, as well as phone calls, email, and other means. The group’s goals remain to showcase and promote LoLa artists in their art-making, exhibiting, and sales; involve local businesses in ways that are mutually beneficial; and connect with the community.

They expect to employ a mix of social media, the LoLa website, and home and business activities throughout Longfellow for community members to explore and enjoy the richness of our artist community and small independent business partners in appropriate physically distanced ways. The forms this will take are yet to be determined and will be informed by the networking and communications described above.
Among the projects in the works are a series of art “scavenger” hunts, with flyers made available via Facebook and NextDoor. Please watch for announcements and news from LoLa in The Messenger and other media in the coming months, and on social media via the handle and hashtag LoLaArtistsMN.

When you go on walks and bike rides in the neighborhood, look for art all around you—on buildings and utility boxes, in the windows and front yards of artists’ homes, and even on top of Little Free Libraries (one LoLa artist, Terry Faust, makes “Wee Weather Vanes” for LFLs)—as we continue to make and share our art in sometimes surprising ways.

“We will grow out of this setback. And we will flourish,” said Schmitt.
“We move ahead with courage,” said White.

LoLa is the League of Longfellow Artists, which is a volunteer-driven community organization that showcases, nurtures and supports Longfellow art and artists. It began in 2009 as a small grassroots effort to raise the visibility of artists living or working in the Greater Longfellow Neighborhood of South Minneapolis.

The annual LoLa art crawl started with 42 artists at 20 sites and has grown ever since, with 119
participating artists in 2019 exhibiting at 56 sites. LoLa looks forward to meeting with the public again
next year.

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Kids learn through play

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

While you’re at home during this extended break from school, try these ideas from Free Forest School

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Free Forest School Executive Director Anna Sharratt said, “This idea started as an outdoor play group. It has turned into a river I’ve been riding for several years now.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Let them be kids, outdoors. Let them learn through unstructured play in nature.
That’s the cornerstone belief of Free Forest School, a volunteer-led program that operates in 200+ cities across the country.
Right now, their weekly outdoor gatherings are, of course, suspended, but it’s easy to put the principles of Free Forest School to use during this extended break from school.
Longfellow resident Anna Sharratt developed the idea for the program five years ago, when her young family lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. She and her husband had signed their four-year-old up for a pre-K learning program, and the kids didn’t set foot outdoors for a whole month.
Sharratt, who grew up alongside Minnehaha Creek and camping in the BWCA, was stunned. She said, “In my way of thinking, learning and nature are inseparable. I had hoped to meet other families in the neighborhood, thinking we could get together outside of school, chill out, and play. I found parenting in New York City to be very competitive. The idea for Free Forest School grew out of that longing for non-competitive, quality time spent outdoors with other families.”
Two months after Sharratt started the first chapter of Free Forest School in Brooklyn, her family moved to Austin, Texas. Once seeds were planted in those two places, people started contacting her from around the country asking, “How can I start this up in my town?”

“There is no such thing
as bad weather,
only bad clothing.”
~ Scandinavian saying

Focus on supportive communities for parents and kids
The Free Forest School model is straight forward; it focuses on creating supportive communities. Parents can parent in different ways while encouraging child-led, unstructured play.
Sharratt said, “There are so many people who attend our play groups. Adults say they forge a deeper relationship with their kids through unstructured play, because so many of their usual power struggles disappear. There is less adult talking and explaining, there are fewer rules.”
The suggested age range for children is 0-6 years, but the majority of kids are 1-4. Every Free Forest School chapter has a director. It’s that person’s job to recruit parent facilitators from the community and to train them.
One of the ongoing Minneapolis sites is Theodore Wirth Park, where a Free Forest School chapter has met on Monday mornings at a certain trailhead for the past four years.
Sharratt explained, “We have a strong emphasis on place-based learning, so we go back to the same place throughout the seasons. Kids love to explore in the rain and mud of April, the heat and humidity of June, the snow and ice of January.”
Place-based learning might come as something of a relief during this time of staying at home, or close to home. According to Sharratt, young children are just as happy, maybe happier, going back to the same place over and over again.
Now that even playgrounds are closed or discouraged, here’s the best news yet. Find a scrappy patch of woods near your house; any nearby nature spot will do. Take the kids there and, after making sure it’s reasonably safe, led them take the lead in their own unstructured play.
Sharratt encourages parents to think back to their own memories of childhood, asking, “What places in nature were most meaningful for you? It’s probably not the trip your whole family took to a national park, though it could be. It’s more likely a tree you loved to climb by yourself, or a vacant neighborhood lot where you built a fort with your friends. These are experiences that give kids a sense of autonomy, which is especially important in this time of ‘helicopter parenting.’”

“Kids are hard wired to learn through play in nature, but parents can get in the way with too much structure and over-scheduling.” ~ Anna Sharratt

Every day outside
It is unlikely that Free Forest School playgroups will be meeting this summer, given the current health emergency.
In the meantime, the website is resource rich, and includes a COVID-19 inspired initiative called Every Day Outside on the blog. It’s a place to share ideas, play prompts, inspirations, and ideas for child-led activities. There are also weekly emails that dive deeper into the value of unstructured play for the whole family. For more information, visit www.freeforestschool.org or or email info@freeforestschool.org.
“It may look like we’re educating children, but we’re really educating adults,” said Sharratt. “Kids are hard wired to learn through play in nature, but parents can get in the way with too much structure and over-scheduling.”
So, even though Free Forest School isn’t formally meeting right now, Sharratt said the emphasis hasn’t changed one bit. Today is the perfect day to get outside with your kids. Let them cross a stream on rocks or climb a tree. They might look like they’re “just playing,” (and what’s wrong with that?) but they’re also developing their sense of spatial awareness, large and small motor skills, balance, critical thinking, and much more.

In a nutshell
Free Forest School ignites children’s innate capacity to learn through unstructured play in nature, fostering healthy development and nurturing the next generation of creative thinkers, collaborative leaders, and environmental stewards.

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The ‘Warbler Wave’ is coming

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Numbers will soar in mid-May

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Why get excited about warblers? They’re incredibly diverse, colorful, and beautiful. They’re great singers too: a delight to the eye and the ear. They are passing through the Twin Cities right now from their wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America. Pictured here is the American Redstart, courtesy of Nina Koch (Tropical Wings, River Falls, Wis.). (Photo by Nina Koch)

Longfellow resident Dave Zumeta walks the neighborhood every day, with eyes and ears lifted toward the sky. He has been an active birder for 61 years, and this guy knows his stuff. He has identified 182 different species of birds between the railroad bridge at 27th St. and West River Rd., and the Lock and Dam #1 – a distance of less than four miles.
Zumeta was hooked on birding by the time he was eight years old. It’s an activity that doesn’t require any fancy equipment to get started, especially for children. It’s a great family activity, and many species can be seen without binoculars.
Zumeta said, “All you need to do is to look and listen when you walk outdoors.”
Many people think spring is the most exciting time of year to bird watch. The “Warbler Wave” has officially started, which means that the northern migration of these small songbirds (5” average length) to their summer breeding grounds has begun.
The warblers are trickling in from Central America and Mexico, but their numbers will soar between May 10-20 in the Twin Cities. Some of them will stay in this area all summer, but many more will continue their migration to Northern Minnesota and Canada. According to Zumeta, “A person can see a ton of these little birds before the trees leaf out.”
Warblers are Zumeta’s favorite birds, bar none. He not only knows the subtleties of their markings, but can also recognize their songs. His favorite place to watch for warblers isn’t Costa Rica or the Greater Antilles Islands. It’s a sinkhole on 34th St. and 47th Ave. just a stone’s throw from his house. He said, “Seven Oaks Park is the reason we moved where we did. I think it’s one of the best places to bird watch anywhere – and it’s a warbler magnet.”
Zumeta has seen 26 different kinds of warblers there over the years. Even their names are beautiful: the Mourning Warbler, the Hooded Warbler, the Golden-winged Warbler, and the Bay-breasted Warbler, to name a few.
Because the sink hole is a large, natural depression in the ground, it affords protection for migrating warblers from wind and cold. The best days for birding, according to Zumeta, are nasty, rainy, windy mornings in mid-May. He said, “I’ve seen dozens of Yellow-rumped warblers hopping around on the pavement feeding on days like that. The park is surrounded by ornamental conifers such as white pine, white spruce, and northern white cedar. Warblers and other songbirds feast on the insects living in the buds.”
Zumeta is a longtime co-leader of the Longfellow Community Council spring and fall bird walks in the River Gorge. He has generously offered to take out family groups of up to three people for one-hour informal warbler walks between April 25 and May 25, if all are willing to practice social distancing. The suggested minimum age of children is seven years old. Binoculars (and binocular skills) are helpful, but not necessary.
Dave Zumeta can be reached at dzumeta@comcast.net for questions or scheduling.

1st of 3
This is the first of three consecutive stories on Birds in the Mississippi River Gorge with local bird expert Dave Zumeta. Watch for Raptors in the June Messenger. These stories are meant especially for families with young children. If your child is interested in bird migration, look up the Blackpoll Warbler – an almost unbelievable long distance marathon flier.

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