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Honaunau students get active on Walk to School Day

Updated: 
October 5, 2017 - 12:05am

HONAUNAU — As students nationwide hiked to class for Walk to School Day 2017, kids at Honaunau Elementary School kicked off Wednesday with a morning of obstacle courses, fitness tests and healthy treats.

Honaunau Elementary School was one of four schools in West Hawaii to take part in the annual event, along with Kahakai Elementary School, Kohala Elementary School and Waimea Elementary School. In total, six schools in Hawaii County participated in Walk to School Day 2017.

“Being active is a mindset change,” said Honaunau Elementary School Principal Noreen Kunitomo. “We can choose to be active; we can choose to be healthy. We make these decisions. And it doesn’t have to be like a marathon or like the Ironman. We’re saying go slow so that you can be healthy in the future.”

While the school doesn’t have a safe walking route to the school, Kunitomo said, it found an alternative in hosting a “Blue Zones” field day event for students, complete with an obstacle course, PACER test as well as healthy snacks and refreshments.

Students also had the opportunity to walk laps around the field, each class striving for a specific number of laps or miles in the allotted time.

And it wasn’t just for students, Kunitomo said. Parents were also invited to come out and get active with their kids.

“We’re trying to not only change the mindset of the child and make them more aware of what they are able to do,” she said, “we’re trying to bring families in so they can continue this when they go home.”

Among the parents taking part was Brian Rapozo, a Honaunau resident and father of a second grader at the elementary school.

“I think this is a wonderful project. Wonderful,” he said as he helped students track their laps around the field Wednesday morning.

He said he came out to volunteer given his strong interest in the overall health of the community.

“The kids look up to their parents and when they see the parents involved, it makes it easier for them to adapt to everything that comes about,” said Rapozo. “And Honaunau Elementary is very good in ensuring the programs work. They work it to the fullest.”

One of the activities, the PACER test, challenged students to run between cones in a given amount of time. As the activity went on, the time students had to run the distance gradually shortened.

Patrick Kim, West Hawaii District Office health and physical education resource teacher, said he saw the kids really enjoyed the fitness testing and activities from the day.

“If we can get kids to continue that enjoyment and build them up from this age, then we can get them to be happy and healthy adults.”

Students, he said, get really excited about challenges like the PACER test, an admittedly difficult assessment.

“They want to do it right away; they want to do it again,” Kim said. “And somehow between being a kid and being an adult, they lose that. And I think our job as educators is to make sure ‘happy and healthy’ is a priority and that we always support health and physical activity.”

And when the kids needed to cool down or refuel, a slate of healthy options was available right on the sidelines.

Options included smoothies made with a bike-powered blender, treats from the West Hawaii Community Health Center and ulu from the Hawaii Ulu Producers Cooperative.

Honu Lafitaga said for many students, it was their first time tasting ulu.

“I’m really stoked that I was able to let them try the first time they got to eat ulu,” he said.

Reyna Kent, a third grade student at the school, said she really liked the PACER test and enjoyed the day’s active event.

“I think we should do it every day,” she said.

And being active, she said, isn’t just important for kids; it’s important for everyone in Kona and beyond.

“I want people to get healthy,” she said. “We should get outside more instead of watch TV and lay on the couch.”

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