The Environmental Protection Agency wants your child's undivided attention this Earth Day, unleashing a cast of characters such as Coco the Chameleon and Carl the reluctant car to teach them how pollution hurts and why it's better for mommy and daddy to bike to work.
The EPA updated its official Earth Day website recently with an official countdown to the environmental holiday, April 22, while offering dozens of activities to teach children why they should care about pollution they can't see such as ozone and carbon dioxide.
Teachers are encouraged to use the heaps of Earth Day lesson plans that are posted on the site, along with coloring books and other activities to help them understand why some days one of their friends might get sick by invisible toxins in the air. That's Coco the Chameleon's job. Coco is turning orange, and no one seems to know why.
The lesson plan, aptly named "Why is Coco Orange?," has the color-changing lizard at reptile school, where he is faced with the problem of turning orange and not being able to turn back. His friend KC asks, "What happened? Did you eat a bad fly?"
"No. My chest is tight. It's hard to breathe, and I keep coughing. I have asthma," Coco says. He later finds out that he's orange because its a "code orange day" and the air is polluted by ozone.
Coco looks outside and says the air doesn't look dirty. "Air can be dirty even when it looks clean," says his teacher, Mrs. Bugeye, who then moves on to school him on the benefits of not driving so many cars.
"Ozone is made when pollutants from factories, cars and trucks mix together in the hot summer sun," his teacher explains. "Less cars on the road means less pollutants to make ozone."
Moving on to another character from the EPA files, Carl the car says he does not want to be driven so much anymore because his tires hurt.
The coloring book, titled "Carl Gets Some Rest," is meant to teach pre-schoolers about the pollution cars create and why driving less is better for the environment.
"For many people, driving a car is probably their most 'polluting' daily activity," the EPA coloring book reads in its preface for teachers. "Using your vehicle less frequently by combining trips or choosing alternative forms of transportation can help reduce air pollution."
The coloring book starts off with Carl complaining about how tired he is and how his tires hurt from being driven so much.
"Carl is a car who wants some rest. His owners take him on lots of little trips — to the grocery store, the shopping mall, the bank, the video store, school, and also to work," the book reads.
Betsy the bike comes to Carl's rescue. "Nobody has ridden Betsy in a long time," and she is sad. "She decides to help Carl get some rest."
Bob the bus is also upset because people don't use him to take trips as much, and wants to help Carl too. Soon Tina the train and Skippy the skateboard join Carl in his quest to get more rest.
"Leaving Carl to relax in his garage, Betsy, Bob, Tina and Skippy travel through the neighborhood, talking to people about giving their cars a rest.
"Finally, Carl gets some rest. His friends, Betsy Bike, Bob the Bus, Tina Train, and Skateboard Skippy, gladly take people where they want to go."