Albert Lea schools follow Blue Zones Quest

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On April 2, explorer, educator, New York Times best-selling author and director of the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project, Dan Buettner, will be in Albert Lea schools to introduce classrooms to the upcoming Blue Zones Quest, an expedition funded by AARP and National Geographic, to one of the world’s longevity hotspots.

Buettner, together with a team of scientists, has identified an isolated Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea, as the latest longevity hotspot — or “Blue Zone” — where people are reaching age 90 at a rate that is four times higher than Americans.

On April 20, Buettner and his team of scientists will begin their two-week expedition to further investigate and confirm exactly why this island is a Blue Zone. Schools and educators across the country — and especially in Albert Lea — will join Buettner online at during the Quest as his team unlocks the local secrets to longevity.

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In doing so, students will learn how to take control of their health and make healthy lifestyle choices. This is the 13th such online Quest, and more than a million school children have participated so far. Families and community members are also encouraged to participate and can register to do so at

Each day, students direct a team of scientists and a film crew as they search for clues that explain why these people are living such long and healthy lives. Daily content includes videos, written dispatches, photographs and opportunities to vote to direct the team’s logistical, ethical and story line decisions via the highly interactive Web site.

The Blue Zones education programs give students control over their learning environment and give teachers an easy-to-use vehicle to strengthen students’ 21st century skills of collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking and communication while also meeting state and national standards in language arts, health, science and social studies.

Each Blue Zones Quest offers an innovative context for kids and adults to discover — for themselves — the keys to a healthy lifestyle. The Quest team looks for common threads in activities, diet, outlook and stress-coping mechanisms.

The results of the Quest lead to a formula of the world’s best practices in healthy longevity and methods for people to put these practices to work in their own lives and is the foundation for the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project.
Families can learn about the upcoming Blue Zones Quest together at 6:30-7:30 p.m. April 2 at Albert Lea High School at 2000 Tiger Lane.
Previously discovered Blue Zones regions include Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoyan Peninsula in Costa Rica.

Since studies have established that as little as 10 percent of lifespan can be attributed to the genes we inherit, the remaining 90 percent is attributable to lifestyle.

Buettner and his team believe that this new location shares many of the lifestyle traits already identified as common denominators throughout the Blue Zones. They eat a plant-based diet; they are deeply involved with their extended family; and they possess a strong sense of purpose.

Like Sardinia, this location’s residents favor a sleep pattern driven largely by sunset and sunrise and the land’s geography promotes a natural, regular pattern of low-intensity physical exercise. Walking the hilly and mountainous terrain is part of the islanders’ daily routine as they go to work, visit neighbors, and shop for groceries and care for their land.

Meet Dan Buettner on April 2 to learn more about the Quest. Again, schools and educators can follow along on a special education-focused site at beginning April 20. All other participants are encouraged to participate via

Amy Tomczyk is the director of education for Blue Zones. She can be reached at