The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) has long worked to make the air in Central Ohio safer to breathe. But now, along with the American Lung Association, it’s teaming up with sixth grade students in Delaware to get them involved in improving the quality of the air.
Cars and trucks are a dominant source of air pollution. They create almost half of emissions that produce ozone and particle pollution – two health-impacting pollutants that MORPC tracks before issuing Air Quality Alerts in the region.[widgets_on_pages id=1]
For this reason, MORPC provides free support services to local organizations interested in adopting an idle-free policy. This includes sample idle-free policies, materials to distribute, and free parking lot signs for any government adopting an idle-free policy.
Jonathan Kelley, a science teacher at Dempsey Middle School, is not only interested in what is in the air, but how he can teach his sixth graders to do research, think critically and – ultimately – to make a difference. That’s why he and his students are the first class to participate in an educational pilot program that could eventually lead to more people being idle-free in their cars while at the school.
“A program like this offers a lot of opportunity to work various aspects of it into a lesson plan. I believe the students will have a heightened interest in collecting the data, researching the health effects bad air quality can have on those with breathing issues, and taking action to ensure parents who come to drop off and pick up their children aren’t needlessly polluting the air,” Kelley said.
The idea of an idle-free educational pilot was formulated by MORPC Air Quality Program Coordinator Brooke White after attending a conference where similar programs were discussed. Since the conference, more details of how it can be successful have been included, turning it into something truly unique to Central Ohio. Brittany Sinzinger, senior development manager at the American Lung Association (ALA), is bringing a strong perspective on the health impacts of air pollution to the program. MORPC and the ALA are closely partnering to implement the program at Dempsey Middle School in the collaborative spirit for which Central Ohioans are well known.
White added, “We’re experimenting with the program this year to see what works best, and then we’ll find ways that it can be applicable to other schools in the coming years. But it’s a wonderful way to spread the message of how simple everyday acts like being idle-free can improve the quality of the air.”
The students have already begun observing the habits of drivers in the front of the school building. It’s likely that they could have an idle-free policy in place before the end of the calendar year, if desired.
In recent years, Central Ohio’s air quality has been improving thanks to initiatives to reduce emissions, including the idle-free campaign.