Third Grade Students Tell Community 'Stop Idling'

GALLATIN COUNTY

POSTED: 6:38 AM Feb 06 2012   UPDATED: 8:33 AM Feb 06 2012
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

"We walked out of the school, and then we saw a ton of cars idling and we're like, 'That's our project'" said third grader Rhett Hays.

Hays is in Tasha Kirby's class at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, and they've been working on an anti-idling project for Disney Planet Challenge.

It's a competition to get kids active in helping the environment in their community. The winning class gets a free trip to Disney World.

The class researched the effects of idling. They say it can increase lung conditions like asthma, and pollutes the environment.

"We got these post cards, we have 500 of them and we're delivering them. So we're getting active."

The class is passing out informational post cards and presenting their findings to the City Commission.

Hays said in the class's community outreach, he hopes "that they learn about how bad car idling is and that we want it to stop."

But some might say letting your car idle on cold mornings is part of winter living in Montana.

"A cold engine will run richer" said mechanic shop owner Scott Keyser. "That's how they're designed to run when it's cold. And you're actually creating more pollution and harder stress on the engine on one that's cold then if you let it warm up for 4 or 5 minutes."

Keyser said it's important to let your car idle in weather colder than 15 degrees, but there's ways to reduce idling time.

"It's plugged it in, this element gets hot" Keyser said, as he explained a tiny little device called a block heater.

He said installing a block heater warms up the engine before you turn it on, so it's better for the engine and environment.

And the kids said they found idling up to 3 minutes is ok.

"They see that they can make a difference, now that they've seen their ideas kind of in action taking shape" said class teacher Mrs. Kirby, adding "we've gotten feedback from a lot of different people in the community. I think that they really feel empowered and that's amazing to me."

Mrs. Kirby said the fact these kids are concerned and aiming to make a difference in the community makes her proud.

Idling is one issue the Bozeman City Commission will consider creating a law for. A community working group will research the topic this year before the Commission makes a decision.