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The Center for the Environment’s Campaign for Clean Air has developed a special program within its No Idling Program toolkit to meet several competency goals set by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. The Center is located on the Catawba College campus.
The toolkit, which includes free lesson plans and learning activities for use by middle school teachers, is posted on the Campaign’s website www.campaignforcleanair.org under the tab, Turn It Off! While designed specifically for the seventh grade, it can be used for the sixth and eighth grades and can be adapted for the upper elementary grades as well as high school.
The lessons can be used within the classroom setting or for extracurricular clubs, Green Teams or class projects. Some of the lessons can also be used in other learning environments, including faith-based schools, scout troops, libraries or parks & recreation sessions.   
The toolkit offers ideas to enhance the current curriculum,” says Shelia Armstrong, the Center’s air quality outreach coordinator. “Developing a school program not only helps children and their parents better understand the link between air quality and health; it also helps to improve our air quality. It has been shown to be successful in getting parents to actually change their behavior and stop idling their vehicles at schools.
The toolkit addresses N.C. competency goals in science, math and language arts. “This allows teachers in the three disciplines to team teach a unit on air quality,” says Amanda Lanier, the Center’s programming coordinator and principal toolkit designer.
She notes that the development of the toolkit continues the Center’s efforts to educate the community about regional environmental issues and to assist teachers, offering them hands-on, world-related activities for their classrooms. “Teachers have to figure out on their own every year how they are going to reach the competency goals,” Lanier says. “This provides information and activities teachers can use to meet those goals.”
The activities include projects like comparing the CO2 emissions between a hybrid and a gasoline-powered car; using Google Earth to learn about the different sources of CO2 emissions; and a mock town meeting that invites students to assume the roles of community leaders in determining how a town reaches consensus on ways to improve its air quality to meet more stringent standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The toolkit also offers a complete program to measure and reduce parent vehicle idling times.
A number of schools have requested the toolkit for their classrooms. “We have several teachers who have said, ‘Please, please finish this so we can use it this fall,’” Lanier says. “Our pilot schools have had great success with it, so we’re very pleased we can offer it to schools throughout the state via our website.”
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The Center for the Environment at Catawba College was founded in 1996 to provide education and outreach centered on prevalent environmental challenges and to foster community-oriented sustainable solutions that can serve as a model for programs throughout the country. For more information, visit www.centerfortheenvironment.org or www.campaignforcleanair.org.

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