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Clearing the air.

An adult might argue that fresh air is not something that can be cultivated and grown, but students in south Mississippi might disagree after taking part in a new program launched by the state's 4-H Youth Development Program.

Through the 4-H "Grow Fresh Air" project, live plants are placed in classrooms to create cleaner air and to teach students how to create a healthier environment. The idea came from a Pearl River County Master Gardener and is based on the research of former NASA scientist Bill Wolverton, who studied keeping air fresh in space stations.

So far, plants have been placed in more than 80 classrooms in Hancock County, reaching almost 1,200 students; plans are in place to expand the program statewide later this year. As plants are delivered to each classroom, volunteers use a lesson plan and educational materials from the Junior Master Gardener curriculum to teach students how plants actually filter the air. "Plants do more than exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide," said Mississippi State University Extension Service horticulture agent Kerry Johnson. "Dr. Wolverton's research shows that plants also reduce the volatile chemicals in the air."

During the process of rebuilding schools after Hurricane Katrina, this program takes on new significance. Closed spaces involved in construction and renovation can harbor many chemicals from products like glues, flooring, and building materials. There must be about one plant per 100 square feet for plants to fully filter the air.

"The Grow Fresh Air Project combines 4-H, horticulture, and gardening while bringing students a ray of hope," said Susan Holder, state 4-H director.
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Title Annotation:southern scrapbook
Author:Thompson, AliceClaire
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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