Engines off

Catch idling cars with a special, pollution-reducing game of tag.

Activity Image
30 mins


You won’t be sitting idle with this game of tag. Some students are idlers, while others are enforcing an “idle-free zone” as a way to learn about idling cars, pollution, healthy choices and clean air. Use the area around your school to identify and count cars that cause pollution and count how many cars could be turned off.


What you'll need

  • Two “student pick up zone” signs and two “idle free zone” signs 
  • Playground (or indoor gym) 
  • Outdoor or indoor area where students can safely view cars 

Turn it off

  1. Explain to students what it means to idle a car. 
  2. Grab your printed signs, power down the classroom and get students ready to head outside (or to the gym).
  3. Once outside, assign the “student pick up” signs to two students and the “idle free zone” signs to two others. 
  4. The rest of the class are cars driving (running) around, avoiding being tagged.
  5. Students with the “student pick up” sign will try to tag the cars. Once tagged, the car stops still but keeps running on the spot (like an idling vehicle).
  6. The students with the “idle free zone” sign will run around and tag the idling cars. Once tagged, they’ll do jumping jacks while singing “turn-off-your-car-when-wait-ing,” and stand still for a count of 3 before driving around again. 
  7. The object of the game is to have all the cars moving around and not idling. 

Count those cars

  1. Explain that by turning off idling cars we can help keep our air clean by avoiding unnecessary pollution. 
  2. Using their fingers to count ask the students to count with you how many cars they can see that have an exhaust pipe. These cars make pollution.
  3. Again using their fingers to count, ask the students to count with you how many cars are idling (stationary with the engine running). Discuss if the engine could be turned off and how that would help keep the air clean around the school.
  4. See if you can spot any electric vehicles (no exhaust pipe).

Modify or extend this activity


  • Ask your students, on their way home from school, to count how many different ways they observe others using people power
  • Have your students design a campaign to stop idling at school 

Curriculum Fit

Kindergarten Physical and Health Education


  • Good health comprises physical, mental, and emotional well-being

Curricular competencies

Physical literacy
  • Develop and demonstrate safety, fair play, and leadership in physical activities
Social and community health
  • Develop and demonstrate respectful behaviour when participating in activities with others

Teaching Notes

Pollution from gas-powered vehicles

Gas-powered cars and other transportation are a key source of air pollution particularly in major cities. They produce nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and particulate matter adversely affecting health, particularly for those with asthma or other respiratory issues. Making healthy choices to use people power (run, bike, walk) instead of using the car helps keep our air cleaner and increases our own health and well-being. Idling cars contribute to air pollution and this often happens in school areas as students are dropped off and picked up. Young people are one of the higher risk groups for respiratory issues and yet idling is avoidable. For more info regarding air quality and idling go to: Air quality and Idling cars.

Electric vehicles

One of the benefits of electric vehicles is better air quality. Electric vehicles do not have an exhaust pipe emitting pollution, which helps to keep our air cleaner. 

BC Hydro produces clean energy

BC Hydro uses the power of falling water to create clean, reliable and renewable electricity. 98% of electricity generated in B.C. is clean energy.


  • Assess students’ participation and cooperation during the game
  • Assess students’ ability to observe and count items


Student Pick Up Sign

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Idle Free Zone Sign

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