Horicon Junior-Senior High School Designated A Blue Zones Project Approved School

by Jim Dittmann
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Horicon School District completes Blue Zones Project Approved designations

On Friday, May 11 2018 – Horicon Junior-Senior High School held a ribbon cutting ceremony marking their designation as the newest Blue Zones Project ApprovedTM school in Dodge County. This achievement reflects the school’s commitment to student well-being in addition to academic preparedness. It also marks the completion of Horicon School District’s goal of earning Blue Zones Project designation at both schools and as a worksite.

Rich Appel, District Administrator of Horicon Schools said, “I want us to be the best school that we can be in both what we do in the classroom and outside the classroom. What Blue Zones Project is doing is trying to help students and all of our staff to live a better and healthier life.”

The Horicon Junior-Senior High School wellness team meets regularly and collaborates with the district leadership team to further school well-being initiatives. Priorities include optimizing the food environment, incorporating physical activity and mindfulness into daily lesson plans, and finding opportunities to expand the classroom beyond school walls.

Speaking to the room full of 7th and 8th graders at the ribbon cutting ceremony, Mike LeBouton, chair of the wellness committee shared, “The purpose of all of this is to make you happier and healthier people. Those two things go hand in hand. If you are healthier, you are going to be happier as well.”

During the school year, most students eat at least one meal a day at school. Horicon’s Junior-Senior High School follows the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement Scorecard, which applies research-based principles that enhance the lunchroom environment and lead children to make healthy choices when provided with the full spectrum of choice. For example, students are more likely to eat healthier when posters and signs in the cafeteria advocate for healthy food choices, multiple fruit and vegetable options are available daily, and food service staff encourage healthy choices to students. Additionally, all vending and cafeteria offerings for beverages meet the USDA Smart Snacks guidelines. Vending machines promote water consumption or have healthy neutral messaging, and water bottle filling stations are provided throughout the school.

In addition to the 230 hours of physical education provided each week, teachers are now encouraged to add movement into daily lesson plans. Natural Resources Management and Ecology classes use a 40-acre outdoor ecology site for hands-on learning. U.S History teaches students about opposing sides and complexity of historical conflicts through tug-of-war. AP Psychology assigns discussion of different psychological perspectives to students through a game of musical chairs. Nutrition and Wellness Classes, Growth and Human Anatomy Courses, Horticulture and Intro to Agriculture Classes, and Pastry Baking and Arts Classes are all incorporating Nutrition Education into daily lessons. In Physical Education, students participate in a variety of lifestyle focused and functional fitness activities such as self-defense, yoga, Frisbee Golf, line dancing, and cross-country skiing with the goal of having each student find at least one physical activity they enjoy and can do for the rest of their lives.

Horicon Junior-Senior High School has a state recognized school garden program led by Mrs. Kern who uses the FFA motto of “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve” to guide her student programs. The garden program has been featured in the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative Publication. Students from various classes and FFA grow plants and produce in the garden and greenhouse. Some plants are sold with money going to sustain the program while others are planted and the produce that is harvested is used in the cafeteria, sold at the farmer’s market, or used in classroom curriculum where students taste-test the produce. Students also volunteer at Marvin’s Manor gardening in the raised garden beds. Encouraging youth to volunteer can lead to a lifelong commitment to volunteerism which has many health and well-being benefits for the individual and community at-large.

Additionally, students in the Junior class participated in a Blue Zones Project Purpose Workshop helping them to identify their skills and values and consider how they can use their gifts to serve others. Seventh and Eighth Grade Students at Horicon School interviewed older adults and then wrote biographies, facilitating social interactions between youth and older adults. This connection between people of different generations has been shown to increase social equity. In another class, Blue Zones Challenge Curriculum had students track their healthy behaviors. Students were excited to report back the number of fruits and vegetables they had eaten in the previous days.

Linda Klinger, representative from Blue Zones Project sponsor, Beaver Dam Community Hospitals, Inc., told the students, “We are so happy that you are building lifelong habits through Blue Zones Project. The habits that you are building to be healthy will stick with you for the rest of your lives.”

Blue Zones Project is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthier choices easier by encouraging simple changes to environment, policy, and social networks. The initiative was brought to Dodge County through sponsorship by Beaver Dam Community Hospitals, in collaboration with Sharecare(r), Inc. and Blue Zones, LLC. Dodge County is the first Blue Zones Project demonstration site in the state.

For details about becoming a Blue Zones Project Approved organization or for general information about Blue Zones Project, Dodge County, call 920-342-2479, or visit dodgecounty.bluezonesproject.com
For information about Horicon Junior-Senior High School, part of the Horicon School District, call (920) 485-4441.

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