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Blue Zones: Quest for the True Fountain of Youth

By Sally Finley - Posted Nov 1, 2006
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A+
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Located online at http://www.bluezones.com/.

Source: Quest Network, Inc., 724 North First Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401; Phone: 612/252-1739; Fax: 612/338-9824; Internet: http://www.bluezones.com/.

Access Fee: No cost. This is a free resource for educators; registration is required to obtain a user name and password for free curriculum materials.

Audience: Grades K-8, students and teachers. This material is especially appropriate for use with students in the upper and middle grades.

Format: Internet-based program: text, videos, graphics, photos.

Minimum System Requirements: A computer with a browser and Internet access. The site recommends Netscape Navigator, In-ternet Explorer, and Safari. FlashPlayer 7 is required for videos and images; users are prompted to a download for easy installation.

Description: This site features interactive expeditions to four "Blue Zones" on the globe—demographically confirmed regions where people live the longest and healthiest lives.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation/Access: The home page loaded easily and is easy to navigate. Photos, videos, and news items are continually updated during the Quest activity. A menu bar provides easy access to a variety of features. Installation/Access Rating: A

Content/Features: Each Blue Zones Quest is a three-week interactive expedition to one of four Blue Zone areas around the world to unlock the secrets of longevity. The first quest, Zone I: Okinawa, Japan, is archived on the Web site. The second quest, Zone II: Central America (Costa Rica), will take place in late January through early February 2007. Two more quests will be scheduled, most likely in the fall of the coming two years.

This site, supported by the National Institute on Aging and the National Geographic Society, provides up-to-date relevant information on a variety of issues related to longevity, including nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, outlook, and coping mechanisms.

The force behind the Blue Zones project, the Quest Network, was founded by Dan Buettner, the producer of dozens of interactive expeditions including MayaQuest and AfricaQuest.

The Blue Zones project offers lesson plans correlated to national standards in reading, language arts, science, health, and geography. A curriculum guide based on national standards is provided at no cost to educators. The material features background information and detailed ready-to-use lesson plans designed to teach basic skills or content.

The project also includes a series of challenges. The Blue Zones Challenge, a health and fitness effort, empowers students to take charge of their own health as they apply what they've learned to create their own health plans. The Blue Zones Legacy Project, a multi-disciplinary research project, asks students to find seniors in their own communities and to discover information to submit to the site's research scientists for an investigation of healthy aging.

The Blue Zones Financial Challenge is a financial literacy program that helps students track their ability to earn, budget, and save for a month. By assessing their current habits, setting goals for their future, and tracking their progress, students learn about the power of savings over time.

The Web site itself offers a variety of features. The home page, the Quest Dashboard, features a Longevity All-Star (a feature on a new senior citizen that updates every Friday and includes statistics), a Daily Dispatch update from the field, and an Image Gallery with location photos, captions, and a slide show function.

Daily Data offers statistics for student tracking and helps in the creation of charts, graphs, and tables. The Mystery Photo is a daily image provided as an educational challenge. A Kid Profile every Tuesday examines the culture and lifestyle of a child living in a Blue Zone. A three-minute video highlights Expedition events.

The Dan's Dilemma feature asks participants to help the team make ethical decisions and resolve team conflicts by voting on an issue twice a week. The Bottom Line pulls the key pieces of evidence together in a concise summary and asks students to voice their opinions on an issue. The Gross and Disgusting section provides a scientific look at unusual and unique customs, foods, and lifestyle events.

The project's detailed lesson plans provide ideas for incorporating a study of Blue Zones for 10 to 15 minutes, 30 to 50 minutes, or 1 to 2 hours daily during the three-week Quests. Teachers can choose content and features based on their schedule and student interest.

The Teacher Support section provides ideas for using the Quest in the classroom with a single computer. The recommendations include using the site as a whole class activity or creating a work station for individual student or small group activities. Students can be assigned specific activities to complete and share with the class, or the entire class can be involved in each aspect of the expedition.

Quest preparations include registering and setting up a teacher account, selecting the appropriate features to use, running a Tech Check to make sure the videos will run, assigning student accounts for home access, checking the availability of a computer with Internet access, making copies of handouts, and organizing the classroom.

When a Blue Zones Quest is under way, daily updates provide authentic real-time informational and narrative quests that can be used to motivate students. Teachers can use this material to teach comprehension skills, encourage creative writing, and build vocabulary through relevant and engaging content.

Teachers also should consider working with the archived Quests; these may relate to curriculum topics currently being studied. Since these expeditions have been completed, there is no urgency to log on every day. Activities can be accessed as schedules permit. Content/Features Rating: A+

Ease of Use: The Home page offers a screen interface that is easy to navigate and provides access to each of the site's features. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: The Quest Network can be reached by telephone at 609/466-0077 and through a direct e-mail link on the Web page. Frequently Asked Questions offer support through information and links related to the product. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: The Blue Zones project is to be commended for its efforts to reach out to students with lifestyle management tools that can help children get the most out of life. When all Four Zones are completed, the results will lead to a greater understanding of longevity and healthy lifestyles. This is a great gift to the young people in our schools today.

One of the best parts of this project is that it is available at no cost, which helps everyone—schools, teachers, students, and parents. I know that the parents of my students will embrace the opportunity to participate in this joint home/school project, especially with its focus on living a healthy lifestyle.

Today's teachers face increased pressures to improve student achievement while trying to maintain student interest and motivation. Blue Zones is exactly what every teacher needs to meet these needs. In addition, teachers will love the detailed ready-to-use lesson plans, all of which are based on national standards in a variety of subject areas. 

I have already signed up to participate in the three-week Costa Rica Quest that will take place in late January and early February. I know that my students will love the interactive nature of this experience. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Sally Finley, Gifted/Technology, Country Hills Elementary School, Coral Springs, FL. 


 
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