The 4-year-olds at Daniel Island Academy were excited to hear that their school won an award from the state of South Carolina.

“I live in South Carolina!” the children called out when Catherine Templeton, director of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, announced the award and told them that the whole state is proud of them.

The academy was named the outstanding school in the DHEC’s annual Spare the Air Awards for its anti-idling campaign. Templeton presented the award Tuesday to Charleston Mayor Joe Riley at the school.

“We are honored to be recognized for our efforts,” said school director Kerry Nowosielski. “Reaching children at this age is huge because they are our future. I think this will have an impact on these kids forever.”

The private preschool, which serves about 280 children, was recognized for promoting ideas like “Ladies and Gentlemen, Stop your Engines,” and “Turn the Key; Be Idle-free” as part of DHEC’s Breathe Better project. It’s one of several environmental initiatives at the school.

The academy encourages families to use alternative forms of transportation, such as bicycles, golf carts and walking, and does not have a carpool line.

“We don’t let kids get into a running car,” Nowosielski said. “Whether it’s 95 or 35 outside, shut the car off, get out and come inside to drop off or pick up your child.”

Idling wastes about a half-mile worth of fuel every minute, according to DHEC. In addition, pollution from vehicle exhaust has been linked to asthma and other respiratory diseases, and has increased risk of long-term health issues.

“Take a deep breath and blow it out,” Templeton told the kids. “Do you know you’re smarter now and you have more energy because you did that?

“The whole state is proud of you because you worked with your mommies and daddies and asked them to turn their cars off and to find better ways to come to school.”

Also honored with Spare the Air Awards this year were Bosch Anderson (outstanding business) and city of Rock Hill (outstanding local government).

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.