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Take a rock, leave a rock

Facebook group beats summertime boredom with childhood craft
MaryAnn Hines, an organizer of the North Liberty Rocks group, displays a few rocks painted with melted crayons Thursday, June 15, at Café Muse in North Liberty. (photo by Shianne Fisher)

NORTH LIBERTY– It’s a simple idea, really, said North Liberty Rocks organizer MaryAnn Hines.
Paint, hide, find and repeat– rocks, that is.
“It’s just a community spirit project is what it is,” she said. “And, I love this community.”
Which is why she started the North Liberty Rocks group on Facebook last summer. With over 150 members, the group is the place to get clues for where to find rocks and to post selfies with found ones, as well as give hints as to where you’ve hidden your own.
“It’s actually a concept that’s taking off all across the country,” said Hines.
A shared Google map recognizes nearly 1,000 groups nationwide and 37 internationally. The movement is inspired by The Kindness Rocks Project (TKRP), which originated in the Cape Cod, Mass., area in 2015.
According to its website, TKRP was created “to spread inspiration and motivation for unsuspecting recipients through random, inspirational rocks dropped along the way.” Founder Megan Murphy started the personal hobby before taking to the Internet and inviting others to join.
And now, countless Facebook groups have launched with similar goals in mind. Larger metro areas like Seattle and Louisville have thousands of members, while Jefferson City, Mo., the group from which North Liberty Rocks was adapted, has well over 12,000.
“It’s so about the community and what they want to do with it,” said Hines. “I’m just happy to see that more and more people are out there painting and hiding and getting their kids involved.”
A Corridor Rocks group recently popped up and boasts around 80 members. Both it and the North Liberty group use hashtags (#corridorrocks or #northlibertyrocks) to direct traffic to the communities on Facebook.
“It’s just a fun way to give kids something to do over the summer and spread a little cheer,” Hines explained. “And what’s really cool is that it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.”
Or a lot of money.
Bags of rocks can be purchased at craft stores such as Hobby Lobby for about $5 and acrylic paints sell for as little as 99¢. Hines mentioned it’s also good to clear coat the rocks to protect the paint from weather. Mod Podge is the perfect product, she said.
“The rocks that work best are the ones that have the matte finish instead of the shiny river rocks,” she added. “Those tend to soak up the paint a lot better.”
Hines said kids can even use tempera paint, which is water-based, non-toxic and washable. You can also heat rocks in the oven before using crayons on them, which melt as you draw.
Another less messy option is using Sharpie paint pens, which Youth and Teen Services Librarian Erin Silva plans to do at a few upcoming rock-painting events at the North Liberty Community Library.
“It’s easier, I think, to control the mess is what I was going for,” she said with a laugh.
Silva planned the craft as part of the “Build a Better World” summer reading program after learning about TKRP.
“I thought that would be something that would be fun to do,” she said. “When you’re walking along and not having such a great day and you look down and see this crazy painted rock, and some kid has misspelled ‘be happy’ or it has a smiley face or something on it, it would probably make you smile.”
There will be two rock painting events– July 25 and 27– during the library’s regular Super Tuesdays, for kids in kindergarten through third grade, and Tweendom, for fourth-through-sixth graders. Parents and caregivers are welcome to join in on the fun as well, which Hines certainly approved of.
“It’s fun for the adults, too,” she said. “Some of us don’t ever create anything. But this can give you a reason to sit down and just take a few minutes for yourself and do something that relaxes your mind.”
She reminisced back to painting rocks when she was a kid.
“I would go around and sell them in my neighborhood,” she said. “That was one of the reasons I started the group. I remembered how much fun that was for me.”
Now, she can share in the activity with her 3-year-old daughter, Emmaline.
“She loves the painting part, but she does not like the hiding part because she wants to keep her rocks,” Hines said. “So we still have some that need to be hidden.”
While she couldn’t say how many rocks are currently waiting to be found, Hines did admit some of her own are still out there.
“We just want to remind people, don’t hide them in places where city workers might mow over them,” she said. “Always ask permission before you hide them on private or personal property.”
There are no rules as to what can be painted, but Hines noted the rocks should be kept kid-friendly. Some rocks posted on the Facebook group include ladybugs, rainbows, smiley faces and footballs.
“The inspiration for the rocks can come from anything. I’ve seen some very community focused, some just bright and colorful,” Hines said. “A lot of the members of the group have painted rocks to promote local businesses, too.”
For example, a dancer near Debut Dance and a dog bone outside Leash on Life.
“Just get your supplies and start painting because it’s a lot of fun,” she added. “It’s creative and it spreads cheer and I think every community can use a bit of that at all times.”