A back to school event at Fremont Middle School doubled as a celebration of becoming the first Blue Zones Project Umpqua approved middle school last Monday.

Clover Weir, a former Fremont science teacher and current Blue Zones volunteer, was recognized by Blue Zones Project Manager Kirk Blaine and Fremont Middle School Principal Ben Bentea for getting the work started last school year to get the approval.

“Our kids need guidance to be healthier,” Weir said. She had started a school garden several years ago and started teaching a natural resources class to seventh and eighth graders last year.

Bentea said he was initially hesitant to work toward the approval, but as he learned more about the program it became clear to him that many of its initiatives lined up with the schools in many ways.

“There was a lot of alignment with what we were already doing at Fremont,” Bentea said. “We’re here to change kids’ lives.”

The school encourages students to drink water, has a water-only policy for its classrooms, health and wellness, mindful lessons and gardening according to Blaine.

Language arts teacher Al Foster will lead the Blue Zones initiative at the school going forward, while science teacher Rhiana Pritchett is taking over as teacher for the natural resources classes.

Pritchett will be working with Oregon State Extension Services’ Healthy Kids program in her classroom. Her hope is to use the garden to supplement the cafeteria’s offerings to students.

The school hopes to host an event later this year to support family well being.

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