Ways to Take a Break from School and Screens

During a semester with no breaks, students search for ways to get off campus while adhering to health-safety measures for COVID-19.

However, many usual hangouts, such as indoor seating at a restaurant, are high-risk activities, according to NPR. Students need safe ways to shut their laptops, leave their dorms and relax.

According to the John Brown University coronavirus guidelines, students are not restricted to staying on campus during the semester. However, they are encouraged to “refrain from situations that would create unnecessary risk,” according to the university website. They are also required to “observe physical distancing and wear a mask when you are off campus” according to the community covenant. This guideline aligns with the mask mandate issued for the state by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson in July 2020.

In keeping with these guidelines, here are ideas for how to take a break this semester.

1. Enjoy the trails and towns of the “Natural State.”

One of the advantages of attending college in Arkansas is having access to multiple hiking and biking trails and other spots for outdoor adventures.

Alex Kennedy, senior communication major, enjoys mountain biking and spending time with friends outdoors. “Coler Mountain Bike Preserve has the best mountain biking around,” Kennedy said. “Eureka Springs also has some of the best mountain biking, hiking, food and shopping.”

According to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Arkansas State Parks contain over 300 miles, which offer “the best way to experience the special beauty of Arkansas.” Parks in the Northwest Arkansas region include Devil’s Den, Withrow Springs and Hobbs-Conservation Area.

2. Take a float down the river.

Twenty-six state parks have “access to some of the most beautiful Arkansas lakes and rivers,” according to Arkansas State Parks. The War Eagle Creek is a north-flowing Class I stream, accessible for beginners, about an hour and a half east of JBU.

Kaitlyn Thomas, senior elementary education major, enjoys going to the Elk River, located in Noel, Missouri. “It’s about an hour and a half away from JBU,” Thomas said. “It’s really fun and you can float down it.”

3. Try meditating in a labyrinth.

Walking through a labyrinth, a single path that leads to the center, symbolizes “a journey to a predetermined destination (such as a pilgrimage to a holy site),” according to Very Well Fit.

Jenn Giles Kemper, founder of Sacred Ordinary Days, a ministry focused on “holistic Christian spiritual formation,” views labyrinths as a way to help believers on their journey toward God. “Prayer labyrinths are an ancient form of prayer that invite our bodies to participate in the process as we follow a path that mirrors the winding and circuitous journey of faith, existing mostly in gardens and churches,” Kemper wrote on her ministry’s blog.

You can try this experience in multiple local labyrinths, including at the Washington Regional Medical Center, Terra Studios and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, all located in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

4. Go on a walking art tour.

Art tours, comprised of murals, sculptures and other forms of public art, offer a way to increase your steps while stretching your mind. The City of Fayetteville Public Art Tour includes the “World Prayer Peace Fountain” by Hank Kaminsky and the sculpture “City Fragments” by Steve Hoover. The tour map can be found at www.fayetteville-ar.gov/3200/Public-Art.

You can also visit the “Solidarity” mural created by artist Samuel Hale at 549 W. 15th St., according to Fayetteville Flyer. Another recent mural, “No Justice, No Peace,” can be found at the corner of College and Dickson Street. It was created by artists Sharon Killian, Morgan Bame, Octavio Logo, Jody Travis Thompson, Hannah Newsome Doyle and Joëlle Storet.

5. Host an outdoor game night.

Gather with a group of friends to enjoy a socially-distanced game night at a local park such as Memorial Park or Bob Henry Park.

If you prefer to stay on campus, you can check out frisbees from the Walton Lifetime Health Complex and play a round of disc golf on the Eagle Ridge Disc Golf Course. Other options for outdoor games include ultimate frisbee, water balloon toss, sand volleyball or a photo scavenger hunt.

6. Volunteer to help a member of your local church.

Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness if they are exposed to COVID-19. To spend time giving back to your community, ask to help someone you go to church with. Whether you offer to rake leaves and mow the lawn or run errands and get groceries, your actions can help someone stay home and stay safe. Contact your church to ask if anyone has recently asked for assistance. You can also encourage them to keep your name in mind if someone asks for help in the future.