Clean Air Schools campaign back in action

Clean_Air_Schools_Sign
Photo courtesy Sustainable Dunwoody

The Clean Air Campaign is working with local schools across Georgia through its Clean Air Schools program. This year, to further spark school involvement, Clean Air Schools is introducing a new “star” system to recognize schools and students for their efforts toward improving air quality.

The Clean Air Schools program educates students, parents, teachers and staff about the things they can do to improve air quality on school grounds and in the community, such as carpooling, riding the bus and not idling on campus. Last year, close to 300 schools participated in the program.

“Children are one of the groups most vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality, and simple actions that reduce driving can have a big impact on the air we breathe,” said Gretchen Gigley, director of education for The Clean Air Campaign. “The new ways to participate in our programs will provide more flexibility for schools to take action and to become a positive force for community impact.”

The new Clean Air Schools “star” system seeks to recognize Clean Air Schools participation at all levels, celebrating the efforts all schools make toward educating their school communities about clean air, health and the environment. Schools will receive a ranking of one to four stars, based on their involvement in Clean Air Schools programs.

One-star schools must offer some amount of air quality awareness and be registered to receive Smog Alerts. Two-star schools must generate student awareness of air quality issues on campus through participation in at least one of four activities: Clean Commute Week, Air Quality Awareness Week, Young Lungs at Work Art Competition and Air Quality Lesson Plans. Three-star schools must impact school-wide behavior, related to air quality, through participation in at least one of five programs: No Idling, Ride the Bus! For Clean Air, Pool to School, Bike Month and Get There Green. Four-star schools must extend the reach of a Clean Air Schools program into the community.

In addition to these new avenues for participation, the Clean Air Schools team will continue to encourage student involvement in the Get There Green program. Sponsored by a grant from the UPS Foundation, Get There Green equips high schools to develop a school-specific transportation plan that can reduce vehicle trips to school. More than to 20 high schools participated in the program in metro Atlanta last year, and registration for the 2013-2014 school year is now open for interested high schools.

These programs not only increase education and awareness among students, but also have the potential to improve their health. According to The Georgia Department of Community Health, an estimated 12 percent of Georgia children ages 0 – 17 have asthma, and 38 percent of these children have had an asthma attack in the past year. Poor air quality exacerbates respiratory conditions like asthma.

Teenagers who want to get involved outside of the classroom can also participate in OnAir, a teen only online platform that rewards actions taken to reduce air pollution with points—or “AirCreds”—allowing students to compete with their peers and see their accumulated impact over time. The site includes a blog featuring regular posts by Georgia high school students. For more information on the OnAir blog, follow @OnAirGA on Twitter and on Facebook at Facebook.com/OnAirTeens.

Georgia schools or parents interested in joining the Clean Air Schools program can visit CleanAirCampaign.org/Schools.

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