Friday Feature: 8 Questions for Blue Zones Quester Sabriya Rice

Sabriya Rice is a journalist and part-time video producer for Blue Zones, a scientific project to explore “pockets” of the world where people enjoy particularly long, healthy lives; in order to identify strategies for healthy living worldwide. This April 20 – May 1, schools can join scientists in a research expedition to the northern Aegean Sea through the Blue Zones Quest. It’s all free, aligned with national standards in reading, language arts, health and geography, and funded by AARP and National Geographic. Visit the Blue Zones education page for details, and read on to find out why Sabriya thinks we should all interview our grandparents.

How did you get involved with the Blue Zones Quest? Had you ever been part of a research expedition prior to Blue Zones? 

It was like Kismet! I learned of Blue Zones from a former classmate. I had contacted my university’s alumni list-serve in order to gain support for another project I was involved in. I received a response from a friend who had participated in a previous Quest. She was thrilled to receive my email because she had been trying to track me down to tell me about the upcoming Blue Zones in Costa Rica. She thought I’d be perfect for the expedition. So, even though she couldn’t help with the project I originally emailed about, she certainly introduced me to a fascinating new opportunity that has changed my life forever. 

What was it like to work and travel with the team of scientists? What was your role? 

As a journalist it’s not unusual for me to speak with medical researchers and healthcare professionals over the phone, or even to interview them in person. But to actually travel with them and see exactly how they do what they do is a very unique opportunity. Traveling with the team of scientists really opened my eyes to the intricate details of their work. My role with Blue Zones is video producer, which basically means I help visually tell a story. Experiencing the expedition from “behind-the-scenes” with the scientists really helps enhance the story-telling and make each Blue Zone a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

What was your favorite part of participating in the Quest?

 Being part of a Quest is like being a part of a daily adventure; every
day brings something unexpected. Online, students from across the
country guide us to help decide what area we should tackle the next
day. The suspense waiting for their daily vote and the excitement of
embarking on each new topic are my favorite parts of participating in
the Quest. 

Describe the most interesting person you interviewed. 

One thing the Blue Zones trip has done for me is opened my eyes to the
wealth of knowledge and information safely stored in the memories of
our longest-living people.  Though I have interviewed some pretty
amazing centenarians during the expedition, I must admit my most
interesting interview was not a part of the quest at all. The trip
inspired me to go and have a conversation with my 85-year-old
grandfather. And oh the things I learned! He’s a World War II Veteran
who had this really cool job of searching for, and deactivating hidden
bombs. Who knew! I stayed on the phone with my granddad for hours, and
it was the most fascinating conversation I’d had in a while. If you
haven’t done so yet, go chat with your grandparents. I’m convinced they
know just about everything. 

Which is your favorite type of feature to write for the quest?

My favorite types of features to write are the profiles. I believe
everyone has a story, and if you sit and talk to people long enough,
you’d be shocked by how amazingly interesting their lives truly are. As
I was growing up, my parents always told me (like any good parent
would), “Don’t talk to strangers!” But, being the social butterfly that
I am, I just couldn’t help myself…  and now, talking to strangers is
somewhat of a prerequisite of my job. Have you ever chatted with a
friend, learned some new detail about them, and thought “Wow! That’s so
cool!” Well, I feel like that with every new person I talk to. And
chancing upon those gratuitous moments are what makes the profiles so
fun, and so interesting, to write. 

What is the average grade level of student researchers that participate in the Blue Zones quest?

I believe the average grade level of student researchers participating
in the quest is 7th grade. But, when it comes to Blue Zones, everybody
is a student! So the average age can range anywhere from 5 to 105!
Learning and implementing the secrets from the Blue Zones is something
we can all do, at any age. 

What is the number one thing you hope students get out of participating in the Quest? 

The #1 thing I hope students learn from participating in the Quest is
that YOU can influence your destiny. There are little things each of us
can do everyday to live longer and healthier lives. Choices we make –
whether it’s choosing an apple instead of fries, or simply spending a
little extra time with family – can not only add more years our lives,
but make each day a happier one. So, I hope the lessons learned from
the Quest travel with each student on their journey [hopefully, a nice
long journey] through life. 

What are future plans for the Blue Zones project and Blue Zones Quest? 

Nice try! For that top-secret information you’ll have to sign up on our website and receive all the latest updates. In fact, it’s so secret, I don’t have a clue where the next Blue Zone is myself.

Leave a Reply