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Miss Angie's Place offers art, exploration for Pine Island kids

Aug. 10—PINE ISLAND — With Miss Angie leading the way, five children ranging in age from about 5 to 9 years old make their way down a dirt path to a fort made of sticks.

With them, they've brought some snacks, some string and scissors — their only tools — and sense of adventure.

Such is the credo at Miss Angie's Place, a new child care and learning center opened in July by Angie Severson. This summer, Severson offers a variety of activities for kids, including classes on how to play sports such as T-ball, and the popular Naturescapes Day Camp that takes kids into the outdoors to do, well, kids stuff.

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On Thursday, she took a group to that stick fort. They fixed some of the sticks that had fallen or were blown away by the wind. They ate some of their snacks, and they went a little farther down the hill to explore in the river below. One time, they rode inner tubes down the river to a city park.

There are rules: You and Miss Angie must always be able to see one another, any trash is packed out when the group leaves, and always ask questions about your surroundings.

"I like meeting other kids," said Claire Olson, age 8, who has taken part in the Naturescapes class a couple of times. "We built the fort and find stuff in the creek."

"I just thought it was an awesome idea for kids," Claire's mother, Molly Olson, said of Miss Angie's Place. "It's not the norm, but it's something we wanted for our kids. My husband I are country kids, and we grew up out in the outdoors."

In the end, Olson said, kids want to be kids, and activities that include being physically active, unplugging from electronics and finding peers to support your imagination are a big part of that.

Severson said it's that peer support that is a big part of what she plans to do. She said when her older daughter was in elementary school, Severson was looking for a math tutor. That led her to see a peer-to-peer interaction between her daughter and another girl.

That's what she will encourage in her afterschool program when Miss Angie's Place transitions at the start of the school year.Severson said she wants to be the gathering place for Pine Island's kids, but is looking for other people with skills and talents to share. Right now, Severson has classes such as teaching kids how to play T-ball or her popular Naturescape class of outdoor exploring. But once school starts, she'll transition to an after-school program each day from 2:30-6 p.m. where kids can take part in a variety of fun activities.

Parents will be able to sign up their kids separately for fun leaning activities. For example, she has a cousin who is an expert in origami and will come in periodically to teach the children the skill of folding paper into art. Another teacher will teach yoga a couple of times a month, and she's working with a third teacher for a music therapy class.

When kids arrive after school, they'll check their electronics at the door and then be given a Chromebook on which to do their homework, working alongside peers and asking adults for help when needed. After the homework is done, there will be activities, board games, art, reading and more until 6 p.m.

Molly Olson said she likes the idea of giving kids a way to use their minds for thinking and using activity to play.

"I want kids to be kids," she said. "This gives them this huge awesome canvas to be kids and explore. We need to challenge them in ways they're not used to in a world filled with technology."