Waiākeawaena Elementary Becomes 100th Blue Zone Worksite in Hawai‘i
Waiākeawaena Elementary School recently became the 100th Blue Zones Project Approved worksite in Hawai‘i, joining a growing list of organizations that have made changes to their work environment to prioritize the health and well-being of their employees.
Blue Zones Project is brought to Hawai‘i by Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) with a goal to make healthy choices easier in the places that we live, work and play. Through efforts in worksites, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, individual engagement and policy change, the initiative is based on the best practices of the blue zones—the areas in the world where people live the longest and healthiest.
The blue zones areas include Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya Penninsula, Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy and Loma Linda, California.
Waiākeawaena Elementary School became Blue Zones Project Approved by implementing these well-being best practices:
- Established a wellness program called Kako‘o Project with a focus on relationship-building, wellness and safety.
- Organized a Purpose Workshop for all staff as part of a professional development workday.
- Created multiple walking routes around campus for staff to enjoy with their Walking Moai teams.
- Hosts events for students and staff throughout the year such as Spirit Week, to create a positive atmosphere and culture on campus.
Suzanne Oichi, Waiākeawaena Elementary School vice principal, explained their dedication to Blue Zones Project.
“Our wellness team attended the [Blue Zones Project-sponsored] Health & Wellness Symposium last school year and we realized we were doing most of the components of Blue Zones Project,” Oichi said. “We also prioritize teaching our school community the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. AtWaiākeawaena, we focus on nurturing the whole child; health and emotional well-being are important.”
“Being Blue Zones Project Approved validates all of our work with our complex and community over the years and has also helped us focus on being healthy in both our professional and personal lives,” Oichi added. “The Walking Moai brought us all together and helped to deepen connections among staff members. Also, we have our #OTED incentive, which promotes students being in school on time every day. Being healthy will in turn increase student attendance and supports our main focus of academics.”
In addition to Waiākeawaena Elementary School’s recent Blue Zones Project Approval as a worksite, the school was recognized as a Blue Zones Project Approved School earlier this year.
As a school, they completed the following best practices:
- Actively takes part in the statewide ‘Aina Pono Program and the national Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Program to provide fresh, local produce for students to enjoy.
- Hosts Earth Day events that includes information on recycling, a Hawaiian dinner and a make-and-take plant project.
- Incorporates wiggle cushions and balance balls into classrooms to allow for more natural movement during lessons.
- Expanded the decade-old track and field program to include second-grade students and increased the volunteer roster to include more staff and parents.
- Partnered with the Hawai‘i County Department of Land and Natural Resources to teach students shoreline fishing and water safety techniques.
Interested in making healthy choices easier in your worksite? Attend the upcoming Worksite Wellness event on July 31, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hale Koa Hotel, a Blue Zones Project Approved worksite.
The event is open to the public and will include speakers, workshops and best practices on enhancing your workplace culture and empowering your employees to make healthier choices.