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Students at East Lake Middle School in Yiling, Yichang, ferment food waste to mate detergent. [Whang Zhuangfei/China Daily]

When the new academic year begins, every student in Yichang city, Hubei province, from preschool to high school, will receive a special textbook about ecological issues.

The initiative is part of the city government"s moves to promote awareness of environmental protection among young people.

The city has about 300,000 students - roughly the population of Iceland - and draft copies of the textbook were distributed to 45 schools on June 1 to mark International Children"s Day. The city"s Party chief and mayor handed out the books to students.

Pan Lianwei, deputy head of the basic education department at the city"s education commission, said the authorities hope the books will have a positive effect on the children.

"Environmental education aims to guide students to respect and protect nature, and comply with regulations governing its protection. We hope the books will help to promote a healthy lifestyle, such as saving energy and living in a green way. The move will also promote the city"s green development," he said.

The contents are tailored to suit the children"s level of development. For example, preschoolers have received picture books, while the books aimed at elementary and middle school students contain 12 different topics, and the children will study two per year.

The assignments for middle school students also encourage independent study, such as guiding them to explore methods of providing cleaner air. One of the activities encourages students to enter factories, communities and families to record evidence of air pollution and compare their findings with official statistics and personal experiences. The students will be required to make "record cards" to share in class.

Schools will be obliged to provide at least four 45-minute sessions related to environmental issues every year, and younger students" performances will affect their marks in the high school entry exam, according to the commission.

The textbooks will also include examples of local moves to combat environmental damage, such as how the city cracked down on heavily polluting businesses.

Pan said the drafts will be amended during the summer vacation, based on feedback from teachers and students, as well as suggestions from bodies such as the local environmental protection bureau.

The amended copies will be delivered to students in September.

Yichang has been heavily polluted as a result of the large number of chemical plants in the city. However, it lies at a pivotal spot on the Yangtze River, which is critical for the protection of the waterway. Last year, to address the problem, the city government formulated a three-year plan to close many plants and rejuvenate the local environment.

However, the time scale for closures means local people often fail to understand the importance of environmental protection and the necessity of having a clean environment. As a result, the city government decided to start by educating the younger generation.