The Environmental Health and Asthma Subcommittee of the Arlington Public Schools School Health Advisory Board is holding its first Clean Air Awareness event on Monday, May 1, the first day of Clean Air Awareness Month and Allergy & Asthma Awareness Month. The group hopes to educate parents and APS staff about the connection between children’s health and the environment and to raise awareness about clean air habits, including turning off a car’s engine when parked and getting to school by bike, bus, walking or carpooling.
The idea for the event came because of several parent concerns.
One issue that struck the organizers was the fact that asthma rates in Arlington went up 69% over three years, according to the 2014 Report Card from the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth & Families.
The organizing group, EHAS, learned from one of its members that Arlington air quality gets an “F” from the American Lung Association. Since children breath more air volume for their size than adults and since children’s lungs are still developing, children are disproportionately affected by pollution.
Finally, parents routinely noticed vehicles idling for many minutes at a time in school parking lots. In order to get a better sense of the scope of the problem, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment conducted a survey about vehicle idling around schools in spring 2016. The results showed idling to be a significant concern among respondents.
Once the survey results were analyzed, EHAS members began discussions about how to raise awareness among APS parents to help inspire them to turn off their engines in school and community center parking lots and to take other steps toward clean air habits.
They spoke with School Health’s Dr. Sam Stebbins, APS Transportation Department Head Angel Garcia-Ablanque and others in and outside of SHAB and determined that student engagement was a key component to any kind of transformation. Raising awareness was the most important first step. Though there are financial and environmental benefits to not idling, the organizers wanted parents, staff and students alike to understand that it’s also a health issue.
Arlington Public Schools students were invited to participate in a Clean Air Challenge to produce a creative Public Service Announcement promoting clean air. The organizing group, EHAS, provided a page of resources to aid students in their compositions.
More than 20 students from 13 different schools – elementary, middle and high – contributed submissions including two group videos from Claremont and Ashlawn Elementary Schools. All submissions will be displayed at Monday’s event. Participants will be presented with certificates of recognition by Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, and video submissions will be played at the end the conclusion of the program.
The event is designed to be family-friendly and is open to the public. It is being held in the auditorium of Arlington Central Library at 1015 N. Quincy Street on Monday, May 1, 4:15-5:45 p.m. Before the welcoming remarks begin promptly at 4:30, attendees are invited to view the student PSAs and to network and engage with the community partner exhibitors. Children may color at a craft table and enjoy hearing librarian Mariela Aguilar read I Have Asthma – What Does That Mean?
Exhibitors include the national organizations the American Lung Association and Moms Clean Air Force along with Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Arlington Transportation Partners and Bike Arlington, APS School Health Advisory Board, APS Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, Mindful Healthy Life and SolPlay Adventures.
APS parents and EHAS co-chair Amy Thomas of Amy Thomas Design and I, Jessica Haney of Mindful Healthy Life , will welcome attendees and introduce speakers, which include School Health’s Dr. Sam Stebbins, Arlington Transportation Partners’ Elizabeth Denton, Elenor Hodges of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Levi Novey of the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, School Board member Dr. Barbara Kanninen, and Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol.
After a movement break and song, Dr. Murphy will present the certificates of recognition to the students who submitted creative PSAs. After a final movement break, the video PSAs will be screened and a few door prizes will be given out.
In time remaining, children can enjoy storytelling with author Jennifer Viau interpreting her original work, The Dragon of Nerudan – Puff Puff Wheeze Spark! Parents and older children are welcome to network, discuss and engage with one another and with the exhibitors until the conclusion of the event at 5:45.
The official event site is http://apsshab.weebly.com/clean-air-awareness-event.html
RSVPs are not required, but interested parties are encouraged to reply to and share the Facebook event is https://www.facebook.com/events/408662482818251/ or, for easy sharing, bit.ly/ArlingtonCleanAirEvent
Jessica Claire Haney is the founder, publisher and editor of Mindful Healthy Life and was the founder and a longtime leader of the Arlington/Alexandria Chapter of Holistic Moms Network. Jessica is a writer and editor who is working on her first novel. Find information about her writing, about the editing and business consulting services she offers, and about her upcoming spring 2017 appearances at local events at JessicaClaireHaney.com.