Protecting Kids from Pests and Pesticides by Promoting IPM in Schools

A school classroom
IPM in schools protects kids.

Both pests and pesticides in schools can pose a health risk to children, so promoting IPM practices in schools is doubly important. That's why the Western IPM Center has been helping Western researchers develop regional resources and promote school IPM.

“We’d been building a regional network, website and resources, and needed to do a project,” explained Washington State University’s Urban IPM Director Carrie Foss, the project leader. “We decided to develop a curriculum and pilot training for outdoor school IPM.”

The group developed their materials and conducted the pilot training in Salt Lake City in September 2012. The training covered:

  • Basic IPM principles
  • Turf management
  • Pest diagnosis
  • Common pests and their control strategies
  • Pesticide safety
  • A tour of a nearby school.

The trainers were Foss, Oregon State’s Tim Stock, Ryan Davis from Utah State and Deborah Young, the IPM coordinator at Colorado State University. Gregg Smith, Facilities Director at Salt Lake City School District, hosted the pilot training. Twenty-seven people attended, representing five of Utah’s biggest school districts with some 170,000 students.

“We polled the group and asked them what worked and what didn’t work, and the local, specific information is what they valued the most,” Foss said. “They wanted IPM strategies for pests specific to their area.”

The school IPM team members took that lesson, and are adapting the general curriculum for their specific regions and audiences.

In that, the school IPM curriculum is similar to another recent Western IPM Center product, water quality training material for agricultural users, professional landscapers and homeowners that shows people how to protect water sources from pesticide contamination. The basic curriculum provides a backbone for local trainers to adapt and individualize for their particular area and audience, and Foss sees the outdoor school IPM curriculum working the same way.

“It has to be adapted and modified for the specific area it’s being used,” she said. “That’s what will make it useful.”