Middle school science project urges parents to change behaviors to help environment


DELAWARE, Ohio - What started as an average science project for students at Dempsey Middle School in The City of Delaware, has turned into a full-blown experience in public policy and community change.

After careful observation, students in Jon Kelley’s 6th-grade class identified a problem at their school.

“When I come to school I can see, like, kids getting dropped off but people also waiting in their cars with it turned on,” said Joslyn Van Gundy.

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Van Gundy and her classmates noticed a lot of parents were leaving their cars running for long periods of time when they dropped off and picked up their kids at school each day.

“From that data that the students collected, we realized, you know, Dempsey actually does have an idling issue,” Mr. Kelley said.

To find out more about what it means to have an idling issue, Kelley called in a few experts with the American Lung Association and the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC).

“We're very excited to engage with a younger audience," said Brooke White, air quality program coordinator at MORPC. “We do a lot of messaging around air quality but we find that a lot of people aren't necessarily educated on exactly what that is and why it's important, so being able to come into a classroom with younger students and really educated them has been a fantastic opportunity.

But the class didn’t stop after learning about air pollution and the effects of idling.

The next step is to present a case to the board in May to change school policy.

“My hope is that it will cut down the amount of idling or just completely stop it,” said Nicholas Heimanowski, a student in Kelley’s class.

While their research suggests turning a vehicle off after 10 seconds of idling, Kelley’s class is asking parents and other adults to pledge to turn off their vehicles when they are parked for 30 seconds or longer.

“One thing we realized is, we kind of started with how we can make Dempsey idle-free but then they realized that you know, we all are in this kind of giant bubble called earth together and it's great to help Delaware but we could expand our reach.”

To expand beyond the Dempsey Middle School community, the class split into groups.

Some students are moving forward with a focus on social media and sharing the message, others are focused on policy and relaying information to the board and another group of students is dedicated to research and finding new information on idling.

Each group, however, is working towards the class goal of collecting signatures on their idle-free pledge.

“We've had a large outcome for a small amount of time. It started with something so small as just observing and learning about idling and it's turned into helping to stop it,” Hejmanowski said.

To learn more about the project, check out the Idle-Free Dempsey Facebook page here.

Sign the Idle-Free pledge here.