back to school

Keep Pests Out When Serving Breakfast in the Classroom

By Marcia Anderson

Breakfast in the Classroom is a popular meal program in schools nationwide, and is widely adopted in many NYC and surrounding schools. Once in the classroom, however, food becomes a source for potential pest problems. Even if students assist in cleaning up after eating their meal, wipe their desks, recycle waste appropriately, and put the trash in garbage bags, crumbs and spills may go unnoticed.

American cockroach Photo: Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

American cockroach
Photo: Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

Pests are not picky. Ants, flies, cockroaches, and mice are drawn to the long-forgotten crumbs in the corner and juice residue left on desks by sticky fingers. It takes very little food for pests to thrive in the hidden spaces of a classroom. Pests are attracted to any place that offers food, water, and shelter – this can include classrooms, cabinets, desks, lockers, and cubbies. Remember that managing pests is important because some can carry diseases, spread food-borne illnesses, and triggers asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

Clean up after meals. Remember that food, even if left in the classroom trash can, becomes an open invitation to any cockroach or rodent in the area.  Cleaning up regularly removes the necessities that pests need to survive. Keep paper towels or moist cleansing wipes in each classroom so students and teachers can clean desks after breakfast. Classrooms serving meals may also need more frequent vacuuming or mopping.

Disposing of trash promptly, within about two hours of the meal, and proper recycling keeps classrooms clean and pest-free. Recycling and waste management programs may need to be altered to accommodate disposal of breakfast packaging.

This NYC school serves breakfast in the classroom, but also pays particular attention to recycling and Integrated Pest Management in the classroom.

This NYC school serves breakfast in the classroom, but also pays particular attention to recycling and Integrated Pest Management in the classroom.

Implement a comprehensive pest management program. EPA recommends that schools adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to managing pests.  IPM emphasizes preventative strategies such as sanitation, maintenance, and exclusion.  In an IPM approach, school buildings and grounds are inspected to see where pests are finding food, water, and shelter. Steps are then taken to keep pests out and to make conditions unfavorable to pests by keeping everything clean, dry, and tightly sealed. Using IPM practices to manage pests is cost effective, and reduces exposure to pests and pesticides. The goal of a school IPM program is to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff.

Following these practical steps will help keep pests out of your school when serving Breakfast in the Classroom.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_250

Heading back to school? Get a little science refresher by checking out some of our research! Here’s the latest at EPA.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Shore
Sengekontacket Pond—the same pond where Jaws was filmed 41 years ago—and the adjacent salt marsh habitat at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary are threatened by both impaired water quality and negative environmental changes, which have eroded almost ten feet of marsh in recent years. EPA teamed up with a several other organization to build a living shoreline as a natural approach to salt marsh restoration. Find out more about living shorelines in the blog The Use of Living Shorelines.

From Grasslands to Forests, Nitrogen Impacts all Ecosystems
To date, most U.S. biodiversity studies on the effects of nitrogen deposition had been focused on individual sites, where fertilizer was applied and small plots were monitored through time. That’s why EPA researcher Chris Clark and a team of scientists from EPA and collaborators are exploring the effects of nitrogen deposition in a first-of-its-kind study focused on multiple ecosystems across the nation. The study was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more about it in the blog From Grasslands to Forests, Nitrogen Impacts all Ecosystems.

Researchers at Work
Research engineer Michael Tryby develops and evaluates engineering processes for EPA tools that are used to protect public health and the environment. He currently works on our Stormwater Management Model, which is a widely-used tool that supports Green Infrastructure initiatives around the Nation and the world. Meet EPA Research Engineer Michael Tryby!

EPA Water Research Paper Earns Top Rank
A journal article by EPA’s Tom Sorg was ranked #1 on the Top 20 list of published papers on arsenic science in the journal Water Research. Read the journal article Arsenic species in drinking water wells in the USA with high arsenic concentrations.

Presidential Environmental Education Awards
EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality recognized 18 teachers and 63 students from across the country for their outstanding contributions to environmental education and stewardship. Read more about the recent awards ceremony in this press release.

Need more science? Check out some of these upcoming events at EPA.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She is a regular contributor to It All Starts with Science and the founding writer of “The Research Recap.”

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Classroom Clutter and Pests Go Hand-in-Hand

By Marcia Anderson

Classroom clutter attracts pests including roaches, spiders and rodents.

Classroom clutter attracts pests including roaches, spiders and rodents.

Schools and childcare centers, by their nature, are prone to the accumulation of boxes, papers, posters and books that are utilized by teachers. Unfortunately, some of the nation’s finest school teachers have reputations for being pack rats. The use of multiple materials for learning is to be applauded, not discouraged. However, materials in classrooms and storage areas left undisturbed for long periods of time may lead to pest issues.

Pests gravitate toward cluttered areas because they provide a safe environment for them to eat, hide and reproduce undisturbed from predators and people. Some cockroaches, rodents, spiders and silverfish prefer layered clutter, such as stacks of paper. These pests carry with them the potential for bites, or are potential allergens or asthma triggers. If a pest infestation occurs, all of the items may have to go anyway. The best way to save the most precious items for the future is to eliminate potential pest harborages today.

Clutter can be dangerous: The brown recluse spider prefers to hide among layered papers and within forgotten boxes in cluttered corners and similar areas. Spiders and other pests have bitten children and teachers reaching into piles to retrieve papers or other items.

Consequences of Clutter: A cluttered space can be overwhelming and waste precious time for both teachers and students. There just comes a time when you simply can’t be efficient anymore because chaos has overtaken the classroom when you can’t find things where they’re supposed to be. Searching and hunting wastes time. Alternately, an organized area helps to promote quick work starts and facilitates an efficient use of time. And once an area is organized, it is easier to keep it this way. Clutter also creates a disturbance in student focus. It is distracting and doesn’t maintain a conducive learning environment.

Keeping a school classroom pest-free is challenging, but utilizing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can reduce the number of pests and the use of pesticides in the school. IPM is a smart approach to prevent and get rid of pests by using what we know to make classrooms, kitchens and cafeterias less attractive to them. Pests come inside because they’ve found the things they need to survive – food, water, and shelter.

Classroom Storage Tips:

  1. Reduce clutter in bite-size pieces. Allocating 30 minutes twice a week to clearing cluttered areas will allow you to get cleaned up and organized in just a few weeks.
  2. Store materials in clear, plastic boxes to better organize, eliminate clutter and prevent pest infestations. Such boxes exist in nearly every size, shape and color for storage needs.
  3. Don’t use cardboard boxes. Cockroaches love to hide in their corrugations and will hitchhike into and set up house in your classroom!
  4. Store boxes on shelves instead of the floor whenever possible. Shelves should be a minimum of six inches and preferably 12 inches off of the floor to allow for access for sweeping and mopping. This space will also discourage any insects and rodents from hiding beneath the first shelf. Leaving space helps the custodial staff to see and clean behind and under stored items. Mice and roaches love to travel right next to the walls, so if you have clutter next to the walls, they can run to and fro undetected during the day.
  5. Clear out clutter to improve pest inspections and treatment effectiveness. Clutter makes pest management almost impossible – pest inspections are difficult when the pest control technician’s access is limited and pests have no reason to venture into treated areas.
  6. Encourage children to help clean up after activities. These clean-up chores can be placed on a Classroom Helper Chart, especially in the younger grades where the help is needed the most.
  7. Keep food items used as math manipulatives, such as dried beans or toasted oat cereal, in tightly sealed containers. Likewise, store animal feed in tightly sealed containers, clean up spills immediately, and clean cages regularly.

Reducing unused items, eliminating clutter, and following IPM practices will improve the air quality in your school, reduce pest problems, and improve the learning environment. It’s time to clean house!

To read more on de-cluttering the classroom, review Purdue University’s recommendations on reducing pest problems by reducing clutter and the University of Arizona’s articles on clearing up and cleaning out for summer and clutter control.

 About the Author: About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Village Green Project: Reading the Results So Far…

By Dr. Gayle Hagler and Ron Williams

The Village Green Project is up and running! The lower-cost, solar-powered equipment continuously monitors ozone and fine particles, along with meteorological measurements, and sends the data to an EPA website by the minute.

So, what is the data telling us about local environmental conditions at this point? The graphs below show a snapshot of recorded trends for ground level ozone and fine particulate matter.

Hourly ozone data from the Village Green Project. Note: data are preliminary and intended for research and educational purposes.

Hourly ozone data from the Village Green Project. Note that the data are preliminary
and intended for research and educational purposes.

The up and down line you see above for daily ozone concentrations is a typical summer pattern. That’s because the summer sun fuels atmospheric chemical reactions throughout the day that create ground level ozone, commonly peaking in the hot afternoon. The process decreases overnight, and ozone concentrations fall.

Hourly ozone data from the Village Green Project. Note that the data are preliminary and intended for research and educational purposes.

Hourly PM2.5 data from the Village Green Project. Note that the data are preliminary
and intended for research and educational purposes.

A review of the particulate graph shows very low concentrations in early July. Not surprisingly, this coincided with rainy days, as rainfall usually removes particulates from the air. Once the rain ended, particulate levels started rising to levels we commonly see in the summertime.

The Village Green park bench

The Village Green park bench

So far, the air-monitoring bench survived very hot and humid weather and has operated uninterrupted during several dark and overcast days, including during back-to-back thunderstorms. We will continue to monitor the system’s performance over the remainder of the summer.

Back to School

With fall just around the corner, the school year is about to begin again. We are interested in how we can engage teachers and their students in learning about air quality science and the Village Green Project. Our outreach team is in the process of developing fun and interactive games.

Care to join the fun? Please use the comments section below if you have suggestions or questions about environmental education projects involving the Village Green Project.  And please check back regularly for future blogs!

Village Green graphic identifierAbout the Authors: Dr. Gayle Hagler is an environmental engineer who studies air pollutant emissions and measurement technologies. Ron Williams is an exposure science researcher who is studying how people are exposed to air pollutants and methods to measure personal exposure.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Back to School Going Green!

Well it is back to school shopping time so let’s talk about saving some green (a.k.a. cash) and going green with the 3-Rs—Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  Reusing school supplies from last year will reduce the amount of items you need to purchase and decrease your environmental impact.  Look around the house, in your book bag, and under the car seats for pencils, pens, and partly used spiral notebooks.

After you have gathered up last year’s left over school supplies it is now time to go shopping!  Use your environmental consumer super power to purchase recycled versions of items you still need.   There are lots of choices to “make a statement” with your green school supplies purchases.  Purchase brands with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content.  Become an instant Eco Fashionista!  Recycled purses and bags made from juice boxes, seatbelts, magazines, newspapers, and more.  My favorite is recycled paper with flower seeds imbedded in it for those special notes.   I also stop in at my local zoo’s gift shop to get a Poo Paper fix.   It is paper made from elephant (or other animals) manure; no it doesn’t smell, but it does make a great conversation starter.

Make textbook covers from recycled paper grocery sacks, crayons and markers or an old T-shirt. 

Retro is in!  Stop by your local gently used store to buy a new look and donate stuff from your closet that no longer fits your style or your body.  Purchasing gently used clothing is a huge way to decrease your ecological footprint.

If you take snacks or your lunch to school, remember to purchase regular- sized bags and then put what you need for the day into a reusable container.  With snack-sized bags you pay more for smaller portions AND the extra packaging creates more waste

If you drive, start a carpool!  It will not only save some cash but you and your friends can get a head start on “whatz up!” gossip before arriving at school.

Denise Scribner has been teaching about environmental issues for over 35 years.   For her innovative approaches to teaching to help her students become environmentally aware citizens, she won the 2012 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. Her high school was also one of the first 78 schools across the USA to be named a Green Ribbon School in 2012.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Going Green As You’re Going Back to School

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Summertime is coming to an end, and kids are heading back to school. And even though they’ll be spending less time outdoors, we should still be thinking about how to protect the environment and safeguard our children’s health. Fortunately, small actions can turn into big results for protecting the environment, and can even save extra money for the school year.

For example, try to cut down on waste. More than 30 percent of what we throw away comes from cardboard and plastic packaging. Look for pens, pencils, and other supplies that are packaged with recyclable materials. That goes for spiral notebooks and notebook paper, too. For every 42 notebooks made from 100 percent recycled paper, an entire tree is saved.

Buying school supplies every year can get expensive. A good way to save money is to conserve energy use around the house. Energy Star products – from lightbulbs and laptops to televisions and air conditioners – are more energy efficient, which means you’ll pay less in utility bills every month. In 2011, the use of Energy Star products helped Americans save $23 billion on their utility bills, and prevented more than 210 million metric tons of green house gas emissions.

There are also ways to make sure our schools are environmentally friendly. In addition to choosing products made from recyclable materials and using energy efficient appliances, check to make sure the products used to clean your child’s classrooms carry the “Design for the Environment” label. This label means those products are safer for students and better for the environment.

Every child deserves a clean and healthy place to learn – and all parents should be able to trust that their children’s health is not at risk when they send them off to school. The EPA is working hard to reduce health threats in the air we breathe and the water we drink, and we want to make sure schools and parents have what they need to minimize pollution in and around classrooms and give all of our kids healthy places to learn.

Last but not least, these actions help teach children the importance of a clean, healthy environment. Making “green” a part of everyday learning – both inside and outside the classroom – is an easy way to engage our kids in the efforts to safeguard the planet they will inherit, and protect their future.

<em>About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.</em>

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Shopping Green for Back to School

By Stephanie Nicholson

While many kids dread the idea of summer coming to an end, I was always excited for one reason: back to school shopping!  And, of course, I was excited to see all my friends again. I begged my mom to take me to the store at least a month ahead of time to ensure I could pick from a large selection of binders, pens, backpacks, lunch bags, and new clothes. The second I got home, I hauled my new finds into the house, packed my backpack, and staged my own fashion show.

When back to school shopping this year, it is important to keep in mind how our choices affect the environment. I suggest buying durable and/or recyclable goods. Choose a backpack that is well-made and will last for many years. I still have the one I used for all 4 years of high school, and in the one instance the zipper broke, it had a lifetime warranty and the company replaced it free of charge. Not to mention the popular outdoor outfitter has been dedicated to environmental stewardship since its foundation. Instead of packing the traditional “brown bag lunch”, choose from the extensive selection of lunch bags that you can use again and again. Buy recyclable paper, and if possible use last year’s binders and folders. If you need new ones, buy cardboard or canvas instead of the usual plastic.

As a teenage girl, I always looked forward to buying a new wardrobe for back to school. For as long as I can remember, I have never thrown out my old clothes; I collect what I do not want and donate them to charity.  Another option if you usually purchase the popular brands is to take them to stores who will give you cash or a store credit in exchange for your gently worn clothes.  My friends and I also quickly realized we always loved each other’s clothes, so we organized clothing swaps. It’s quite simple: collect all the things in your closet you’re tired of, have a get together with some great food, and swap clothes. You get to go home with some cool new pieces without spending a dime. Back to school can be hectic, but with a few simple changes it can be easier on the environment.

How will you “go green” during back to school shopping?

Stephanie Nicholson is an intern with the EPA Office of Environmental Education in Washington, DC. She is a senior at Towson University near Baltimore, MD and will graduate in December 2012.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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College Students – It’s Time for Back to School Shopping!

By Vanja Basaric

College Students- It’s Time for Back to School Shopping! Find Ways to Save Money AND help Protect the Environment!

With summer nearing its end, college students like me start thinking about supplies we need when going back to school. When I think of back to school shopping as a kid, I think about how excited I used to get when teachers sent out school supply checklists. I would eagerly run up to my mom telling her we had to go to the store THAT DAY, or all of the good supplies would be taken. I remember running through the store picking out the newest Backstreet Boys folders and gel pens so I could impress friends with my brand new supplies. But as much as I enjoyed back to school shopping, the older I got, the more I realized how pricey it can be.

For college students, back to school purchasing is more about housing, textbooks, and computers. As a graduate student, my back to school shopping this year means upgrading my computer, purchasing a mini-fridge to keep my snacks fresh, and ordering endless amounts of textbooks. Clearly, these needs require quite a hefty budget, but there are many ways that I have found throughout the years to keep costs down.

I’m also passionate about finding ways to help protect the environment when making my back to school purchases. For instance, I always make sure to buy appliances and products with the ENERGY STAR label .  Having my own apartment means paying for utilities, and this makes me even more energy and cost cautious. What impresses me about ENERGY STAR products is that they offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance or features. ENERGY STAR provides a list of products for your dorm room or apartment.

Other ways I save money on back to school shopping include buying electronic versions of my textbooks. Rather than spending a fortune on hard copies of the text, I just download the electronic version and easily access it on school computers. I’m amazed at how much money I’ve saved over the years by not buying name brand pens and notebooks and shopping at discount stores. Yes, this means giving up my beloved gel pens, but it also means saving money.

So whether you are going back to your dorm or finally moving off campus into your new place, remember these back to school shopping tips and save money while being mindful of our beautiful environment!

About the author: Vanja Basaric is a graduate student at James Madison University working towards a Master of Public Administration. She is currently a summer intern in the Office of Public Engagement.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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How To Go Green And Go Back To School At The Same Time

By Stephanie Nicholson

What time is it? SCHOOL TIME! Parents and teachers with summer coming to an end it’s time to load up on pencils and crayons. This year while shopping, keep in mind the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. As a general rule, buy durable and recyclable goods, and when possible reuse old supplies. Before shopping, go through everything you have left from last year and make a list to prevent unnecessary purchases. Back to school shopping can be hectic, but if you follow my top three green tips for parents and teachers you can rest easy knowing you minimized your footprint.

Tips for Parents:

1.    Buy durable, sturdy backpacks that last for years
I still use the same backpacks I used for all four years of high school when I travel, and in the one instance the zipper broke the popular outdoor outfitter replaced it free of charge. You can even pass down durable backpacks to your younger children.

2.    Kick the classic “brown bag lunch” to the curb
If you pack your child’s lunch, reduce waste and invest in a reusable lunch bag. Not to mention, your child will have fun picking out his/her lunch bag from the extensive collection with popular characters and cool designs.

3.    Buy smart! Purchase products made from recycled materials
Many supplies are made from recyclable materials such as pencils made from old blue jeans and binders made from old shipping boxes. You can also reuse items like refillable pens, rechargeable batteries, and scrap paper for notes.

Tips for Teachers:

1. Reuse old supplies
Take an inventory of what you have left over before you buy. You will most likely be able to reuse things like crayons, scissors and glue from previous years.

2. Promote recycling in the classroom
Place recycling bins in the classroom for paper, cans, and plastic. Encourage your students to use them. You could even make a game of it, and when a goal amount is collected the class wins a prize.

3. Reduce paper usage
Use the blackboard or whiteboard to reduce paper usage. If possible, set up a class webpage where students can access assignments from home and ask questions.

This is just the beginning, check out these EPA tips for back to school. Do you have any of your own green tips for the back to school season?

About the author: Stephanie Nicholson is an intern with the EPA Office of Environmental Education. She is a senior at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland and will graduate this winter with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Back to School: What’s Your Green Inspiration?

back-to-school-signBy Carly Carroll

This morning on my commute to work, I saw several students in uniforms. It’s August, so that can mean only one thing: it’s time for back to school. Going back to school was always one of my favorite times of the year: I loved shopping for new school supplies and I loved the first day of school: seeing all my old friends, finding out what classes we had together, figuring out who would be my new favorite teacher, and what would be my favorite class. By high school, I had that answer: it was environmental science. The experience I had in high school shaped my career path today: I became an environmental educator because I wanted to share the passion for protecting our environment that had been instilled in me by my high school environmental science teacher. As I see these students going back to school, I wonder which teacher will inspire them. Will it be their environmental science teacher? Or maybe their math, language arts, or history teacher?

Whoever it may be, it’s never too late to teach students about the importance of protecting the environment, even as we go back to school. Think about having a waste-less school year:

  • Re-use school supplies from last year, like pens, pencils, and binders. I know when I was in school, we had to have a binder for every class: use those binders again this year!
  • Use less electricity: turn off the lights when everyone leaves class. My all-time favorite classes were the ones where teachers took us outside to have class. Even in English class, we could write our essays outside (when the weather was nice, of course!)
  • Check out EPA’s Facebook and Twitter throughout September for back to more school tips, resources, and activities.

A lot of these tips can also help save money while helping the environment at the same time. What’s your green inspiration during back to school?

About the author: Carly Carroll is an Environmental Education Specialist with EPA’s Office of Environmental Education in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the office in 2011, she worked as a Student Services Contractor at EPA in Research Triangle Park, assisting with environmental education outreach.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.