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In the Air - Tools for Learning About Airborne Toxics Across the Curriculum


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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funded the Missouri Botanical Garden's Earth Ways Center to design and develop a full spectrum of environmental education materials that can be used to educate and help K-12 students and adults better understand airborne toxics issues in their communities. The goal is to increase knowledge about air pollution and to make connections between behaviors and air quality. Five modules have been developed (K-3, 3-6, 6-8, 9-12 and adult).

All materials are available free of charge, downloadable from the Internet at http://InTheAir.org. The activities are designed to be used in a variety of settings and all have been comprehensively reviewed. There is a limited supply of both hardcopy and compact disk of the materials available from the Missouri Botanical Garden. Visit www.InTheAir.org where you may download all materials for free as well as provide comments and suggestions for future additions. For more information about the modules you may also call Missouri Botanical Garden at 314-577-0220.

Most students will never be scientists or engineers. If EPA truly wants the full spectrum of students and adults to gain greater understanding about air pollution and airborne toxics, using this knowledge to affect daily decisions, then EPA needs to meet them in their non-science interest areas. In The Air: Tools for Learning About Airborne Toxics Across the Curriculum uses the multi-disciplinary breadth of education - reading and communication arts, mathematics, social studies, science, art, etc.- to explore how our individual and collective behaviors produce airborne toxics.

The origin of these materials came from the discovery that there was very little available to help people understand airborne toxics. Activities on acid rain or climate change were easily found, but not on airborne toxics. The St. Louis Community Air Project and the North Side (St. Louis) Clean Air Project were looking for ways to help their communities understand and manage airborne toxics. Educational material goals were to increase knowledge about air pollution (as it related to toxics) and to make connections between behaviors and air quality. They had no access to appropriate materials. New materials had to:

-be low/no-cost and be usable across all age and skill levels (Kindergarten through adult);
-use engaging multi-disciplinary activities aligned with current educational needs and standards;
-be designed to be effectively used for environmental education, meaning to be fair, accurate, action oriented, instructionally sound, useable, of appropriate depth and with an emphasis on skill building;
-emphasize how one's choices impact human health and include connections among air, water and soil.

A specialized science education is not needed to understand the concepts presented in these modules. Users will be able to understand and take specific actions to improve their air quality. The grantee, Missouri Botanical Garden, and EPA developed accessible and appropriate materials containing activities for all grade levels, formatted into the following modules: K-3, 3-6, 6-8, 9-12 and Adult. All materials have been correlated to National and Missouri education standards. The North American Association for Environmental Education's Environmental Education Materials: Guidelines for Excellence were used to ensure the modules met the guidelines to be well-rounded environmental education materials. There was an extensive review process using four review panels: EPA science specialists, non-EPA science specialists, formal and non-formal educators, and community members. In all, 69 individuals assisted in the review process.

Each module has: A)Teacher's Guide with a Module Overview, Goals, and Correlations: B) Pre-and Post- Activities; C) Core Activity-the primary activity for the module; D) One to five Connecting Activities-activities that supplement the concepts in the Core Activity, but they also stand alone as individual activities; E) Appendix - background information on airborne toxics such as key terms, risk assessment information, and a brief history on clean air efforts in the U.S.; F) Further reading and researcah references; G) Evaluation form.

Modules are coordinated so that all activities complement one another. The entire module may be implemented in the classroom as a unit, or you may choose to do just individual activities from one or more units as each group has different needs, interests and abilities.

The materials were piloted by the St. Louis Community Air Project (CAP), North Side Clean Air Project and others.

These are multimedia (air, water & waste) educational materials because activities in daily life generally do not reside within a single media stovepipe. For instance, the dry cleaning proprietor might consider their activity regulated only for the perchloroethylene air emissions (Clean Air Act). However, if the proprietor changes processes, the new discharges might be going directly to a water stream or to a publicly-owned wastewater treatment plant (Clean Water Act). We are eliminating a harmful air emission and creating a less harmful. The alternative activity involves discharges to another media (water) and what processes and risks are associated with that transfer. This means having a good understanding of what can and cannot be dumped into the waterways (both from legal and environmentally protective perspectives). With regard to TSCA Section 10, we will likely be developing materials that will allow us to provide research information to local authorities so that they might be able to comprehend the impact of toxic chemical substances.

The educational materials were developed with input and support from many different sources. The Missouri Botanical Garden is renown for their educational materials development. Their principal authors are experienced curriculum designers. Margaret Lilly and Eleanor Hall. The community support came from at least 34 organizations representing more than 60 individuals/reviewers. The Partners include:

American Lung Association of Missouri
Boening Corporation
Cardinal Ritter Prep High School
Agency for Toxics Substance & Disease Registry
Center for Disease Control
Donnay Environmental Health Engineering
East St. Louis School District
Galludet School for Deaf (Elementary School,
St. Louis)
Grace Hill Settlement House
Terry Henderson
Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District
Metropolitan Sewer District (St. Louis)
Missouri Department of Elementary and Seconday
Education
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
North Side Clean Air Project
Joan Rivas
St. Francis Xavier School, Kansas City, MO
St. Louis Community Air Project
St. Louis Public Schools
St. Louis Zoo
Team Sweep
US Environmental Protection Agency
Washington University
Harvard University School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health
Maryville University
Missouri Botanical Garden
Missouri Oil Council
Regional Chamber and Growth Association
Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri
St. Louis Association of Community Organizations
St. Louis Public Library
St. Louis University School of Public Health
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville
Alderman Craig Schmid
Vanderbilt University

Websites:
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