School is out for summer, though some kids from Springfield, Missouri, are spending their free time engaging in outdoor play
with college professors. The News Ledger reports since 2008, several faculty members who teach at Drury University and have the summers off decided to come together to create a group meant to help youngsters in the area enjoy a safe and happy vacation.
The Drury Neighborhood Activities program (DNA) links college professors with students from Boyd Elementary School, the news outlet reports. DNA helps sponsor fun trips and outings, including to Springfield Cardinals games as well as field trips to Table Rock Lake. Here the students are able to have fun using river floats, while every Wednesday night they enjoy night swimming and cookouts at Silver Springs Pool.
Mark Wood, a DNA organizer and chemistry professor, plans the trips along with Don Deeds, a biology professor, Bruce Callen, a physics professor, Robin Miller a sociology professor and Brian Shipman a video and communications professor. The goal has always been to help the youngsters in the area spend ample time outdoors.
"Our goal is to provide a positive impact on the lives of kids in our neighborhood through fun, safe activities that promote enduring relationships," Wood told the publication. "The trips and parties are about having a safe day where people play and are happy."
DNA may have taken notice of Richard Louv's 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, which describes an overwhelming growth in "nature deficit disorder." The phrase is a term he coined referring to kids today lacking a sense of connection with the environment.
All children involved in DNA are from urban neighborhoods and for some, the program is the first time they've been outside city limits. Jenna Murphy, a DNA mentor, described how great it felt to see the kids embrace the world around them for the first time.
"The creek was the highlight this year for me," Murphy told the news outlet. "It was really enjoyable because the kids were catching tadpoles and crawdads and really getting to enjoy the outdoors."
Programs like DNA are a great way to help kids learn about nature while being physically active. Parents can ensure their youngsters embrace nature and get in the 60 minutes of activity as recommended by the Let's Move! initiative by bringing them for walks in the woods or to the park to use playground equipment