Rockwood Center for Creative Learning Students Take ‘Action4Air’

Article courtesy of the St. Louis Regional Clean Air Partnership

With motor vehicle idling ranking as a major contributor to ozone pollution, 4th grade students from the Rockwood Center for Creative Learning’s (CCL) “There’s No Zone Like the Ozone” classes have embarked on an anti-idling campaign to help reduce emissions and improve the region’s air quality.

Led by instructor Kathy Nuetzel, in conjunction with the American Lung Association and the St. Louis Regional Clean Air Partnership, the “Action4Air” campaign kicked off last spring when students were tasked with developing an idling survey which revealed that, daily, half of the parents picking up their children from the CCL idled their vehicles and some arrived nearly 30 minutes early. Knowing that just 10 seconds of vehicle idling can negatively impact air quality, the students were determined to decrease idling outside the Center.

“This project really kicked off with a visit from Susannah Fuchs of the American Lung Association and the Clean Air Partnership, who spoke to our students and challenged them to solve the problem of idling,” said Kathy Nuetzel, Gifted Educator with the Rockwood CCL. “At the CCL, the curriculum is focused on presenting our gifted students with a real-world problem and empowering them to think critically about that problem and then take actions to fix it or solve it. In this case, the students in our Ozone classes stepped up to the plate in a big way.”

The students were divided into four groups with specific tasks. A Sign Group was in charge of developing proposals to CCL administrators requesting the placement of permanent anti-idling signs in the facility parking lot. The team also designed the signs that now hang in key spots throughout the lot.

A Message Group was formed to raise money to purchase the signs and promote anti-idling awareness within the CCL community. Students designed and sold anti-idling-themed t-shirts, created “thank you for not idling” flyers for posting inside all CCL busses, and also developed an electronic flyer asking parents to refrain from idling.
A third group identified idling concerns related to parent pick-up procedures and developed recommendations to improve procedures and decrease idling. As a result of their efforts, the CCL has already seen idling decrease by 15%.

“Before any work was done, our Ozone students studied many anti-idling campaigns across the country, and we gathered a lot of helpful and useful information,” said Nuetzel. “Once we put together our own successful campaign, we wanted to pass our experience along to others, and that’s where the Design Group students focused their efforts.”
The Design Group compiled and shared the students’ “Action4Air” strategies through a variety of channels. Their work has included the development of website content, PowerPoint presentations and a web video highlighting the campaign and its impact on the CCL so far.

“It’s truly incredible to see all that students have accomplished,” said Susannah Fuchs, Senior Director of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association of the Plains-Gulf Region and administrator of the Clean Air Partnership. “Not only are they drawing attention to the negative effects of vehicle idling on air quality, but their efforts go a long way towards helping their fellow students and teachers, and the region, understand the connection between air quality and lung health.”

To learn more about the continuing work of the Rockwood CCL’s “There’s No Zone Like the Ozone” classes, visit https://staff.rockwood.k12.mo.us/nuetzelkathy/Pages/default.aspx or call 636-891-6550. For information on ways you can do your share for cleaner air, visit www.cleanair-stlouis.com.