In Their World

. February 8, 2013.

Inspiring kids to live to the fullest is Dianne Dudley’s passion.

Dudley, 43, an Ann Arbor resident, performs her magic as a teacher at Community High School in Ann Arbor and as an instructor working with the Ann Arbor Department of Parks and Recreation. “I tell the kids every day, ‘do something for your brain, do something physical, preferably outside, do something for someone else and do something for your soul — something spiritual’,” she says. “It’s easy when it becomes a routine.”

Dudley leads one of the forums at the high school, a homeroom-like class of 24 students gathered from every grade. Youngsters meet three times a week to plan and perform community
service and other projects. “We hit the parks in town and spend a day pulling weeds or do other work the city wants done,” she explains. “Sometimes we go in the classrooms and help younger children. We collect canned goods for the poor.”

Getting outdoors

One volunteer activity brought youngsters to the Huron River to clean up trash clogging the waterway.“We met at the canoe livery. We piled in. They gave us buckets and extended arms,” she says. Old coffee cans and fast food containers weren’t the only items that ended up in the canoes. “You collect spiders on the way,” she said. The clean-up helped kids grow up.

“It may not be an activity you would choose to do but it’s like the real adult world,” she said. “Participating in the world means being aware that it’s more than just me.”

Meeting the maximum potential

Helping children develop to their full potential is something Dudley works for outside of her job as a physical education teacher, as well. Dudley and three of her four children joined together to lead sessions of the Creative Movement and Music Together classes aimed at youths from birth to age five, offered at the Ann Arbor Public Library through the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Department. “It’s a series of music, song and movement with a variety of props — streamers, scarves, pompoms, hula hoops, jump ropes and feathers,” she said. “I use it to engage parents and children in fun activities. It’s a series of movements that helps to stimulate parts of the brain.” Dudley’s daughter/helpers are 6, 9 and 11. “My girls come and count my props, demonstrate and dance with the kids,” she said. “It’s rewarding and fulfilling. I’m proud of them.”

Dudley and her husband, Blair, 45, can often be found having fun outside with their children. How can you pry your youngsters away from their Wii’s and Xboxes? “We have a huge garden where everyone helps plant, weed and harvest. Having potted vegetable plants is another way,” she said. “We have a zip line and a trampoline. In the kitchen, I keep all the art supplies on the counter. This time of year you can walk through the woods and bring a camera to take photos or go on scavenger hunts.” It’s an effort to not be a computer family, but worth the struggle, she said. Good health and togetherness are just some of your future windfalls.