The Young and Healthy Virtual Adventure is a unique hauora program that uses a combination of engaging technology and inspirational role models to increase our tamariki’s engagement in play, active recreation and sport, particularly in those most at need.
Student's creates their own avatar and by tracking their increased activity, they contribute to their class completing a global adventure with videos of their unique avatars experiencing each destination being a key motivator.
The program has a significant impact on students and their family’s participation in active recreation. As well as increased activity we also see improvements in other key behaviours.
Like many people, I was growing increasing concerned with the decrease in activity levels and resulting impacts on mental and physical health as borne out in our Tamareki health statistics.
Having worked with families to improve their activity and health as part of the green prescription and developed successful corporate health programs with inspirational athletes where I had seen the powerful connection and inspiration the right role models could have on behaviour change, I saw the potential to use technology for good and really make a difference to future generations.
The key barriers were;
A. Engaging the most at risk to participate and increase their active recreation no matter where or how remote their location is:
B. Raising fund to deliver the program at no cost to the participants
C. Gaining support of role models from different gender and ethic backgrounds
To overcome these barriers, we;
A. To ensure those most at need who may be put off by an ‘activity event’ would participate, we designed the program to be a fun and entertaining virtual adventure in which all could participate equally no matter their starting activity level.
B. We approached companies with a strong health and community focus to be a foundation partner and gained support from Zespri.
C. We applied for and received funding from Sport Waikato via the Tu Manawa fund.
D. We identified potential role models and approached ASICS who came on board and through that relationship, secured our ambassadors Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Ardie Savea, Kane Williamson).
In the past twelve months over 6,338 tamariki from 60 primary and intermediate schools in the Waikato region have participated in the virtual adventure, increasing their activity levels and engagement in wide a range of activities and sports.
At the event commencement, only 14% of students were doing 12,000 or more steps daily. By the end of the event this had risen to 38%. We also measured time spent in moderate to vigorous activity. Initially only 30% of students were achieving 60 minutes or more per day, by the end of the event this rose to 62%.
In addition, we;
• gave over 300 pairs of ASICS sports shoes to classes in the Waikato region that have earned them by participating in our mini-challenges which create deeper learning around topics like why activity is important.
• visited 18 classes to join tamariki in fun active play sessions
• ran a large activity day at Pukete School where all the tamariki were able to experience a wide variety of activities, including many they had not previously taken part in such as the skateboarding lessons provided. All the activities were physical in nature but weren't competitive, and this helped to engage many children. We also had Chiefs rugby players joining and as local sporting role models, their messages about maintaining health activity levels” were supported by those from parents and teachers.
The partners I choose to collaborate with are very mindfully selected as their potential interaction and influence on participants can be significant. The key organisations mentioned below share the mission and values of the Young and Healthy Trust;
Zespri kiwifruit are NZ grown and nutritionally valuable in so many ways to tamariki and their whanau. As an organisation they have a strong commitment to supporting the communities they work in and their funding means we can deliver the program to a base level of students.
Tu Manawa Funding from Sport Waikato
Demand for places always exceeds the funding we have, so without the support from the Tu Manawa fund we would not have been able to have as many from the Waikato region participate. It also enabled us to reward improved activity / behaviour with a super fun activation day at one of our schools to further develop their love of being active.
The key to the success of our program is the collaboration and support from a number of organisations whose funding ensures we can deliver the program at no cost to the participants and continually improve it year on year from teacher and student feedback.
Our partnerships have also meant;
> awareness of the program and its benefits has risen significantly, ensuring the places we can provide are always full, with a substantial waitlist of classes wanting to participate.
> we have also been able to provide new sports shoes to many of our most in need tamariki, overcoming another barrier to being active.
> We have been able to create memorable “in-person” activations at some schools that increase the impact of the online program.
> Collaborating with other like-minded organisations ensured we supported one another with similar messaging and shared resources so that the value of our collective mahi is amplified exponentially.
From the data collected and teacher and student surveys, we know the program motivates tamariki to increase their time being active and participating in moderate to vigorous activity with an associated decrease in screen time. At the event commencement, only 14% of students were doing 12,000 or more steps daily. By the end of the event this had risen to 38%. Initially only 30% of students were achieving 60 minutes or more per day of ‘huff and puff’ activity, by the end of the event this rose to 62%.
We also saw improvements in other healthy behaviours like drinking more water vs soft drinks and juice, and because children are often the greatest influencers of their parents, we know the ripple effect of the program often creates healthier habits at home too – usually first demonstrated by an improvement in the quality of the lunches bought to school!
The engaging and collaborative nature of the virtual adventure often kick-starts a child and whanau who may otherwise not have engaged in active habits, then as they experience the benefits that even small doses of activity and changes to a healthier diet can have on their physical and mental health we see healthier habits being formed.
Tamariki consistently tell us they have benefited from the program, want to do it again and they think it's something they think other children should do too!
- Waikato District
- Sport & Active Recreation Partnership