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Philadelphia Students Help Rid Bugs from Middle School
(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2004)
Pests and pesticide use in schools and other urban dwellings can result in unhealthy indoor environments, especially among those with asthma. A new Penn State service learning project at Shaw Middle School in West Philadelphia will try to alleviate these problems by empowering students, teachers and the community to implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The service learning project aims to build the capacity of students at Shaw Middle School to recognize, manage, and prevent pest and pesticide related health risks by using IPM rationale and methods. Awareness of these risks and IPM solutions will be both taught and implemented at Shaw and simultaneously spread to the students' larger community through curriculum development and educational outreach and demonstration programs.

IPM is a pest management strategy that focuses on long-term prevention or suppression of pest problems through a combination of practices such as regular pest population monitoring, site and pest inspections, an evaluation of the need for pest control, occupant education, and structural, mechanical, cultural, and biological controls. Techniques can include such methods as sanitation, pest-proofing waste disposal, structural maintenance, good soil health, and other non-chemical tactics. Least hazardous pesticides should be selected only as a last resort, thus minimizing the toxicity of and exposure to pesticides products that are used.

In Pennsylvania, two new legislative initiatives are encouraging IPM in schools:

1) IPM must be taught in K-12 as part of the new Pennsylvania Academic Standards in Environment and Ecology. This creates an opportunity for combining IPM education and implementation using service-learning models.

2) IPM is now required to manage pests on all Pennsylvania public school property. This creates opportunities to partner with schools and school students to improve pest management practices in their schools and surrounding community.

Teresina Bailey, the Community IPM Outreach Coordinator for the Pennsylvania IPM Program, and Nicole Webster, assistant professor of agricultural extension and education at Penn State, are developing the service learning project. "Service learning provides a tremendous asset to youth by providing them with skills to promote self-confidence, citizenship, and leadership to deal with these situations," says Webster. "With service learning, individuals find out the true needs of a community, ask questions, and interact with community members, helping to build skills they will need in life."

In January, approximately 90 students and their parents were assessed on IPM knowledge. Selected students will review the assessments and later the entire school will be tested. Teams will be formed to develop posters, write articles on environmental issues, create eco-logs, begin a school recycling program, and help develop a monthly newsletter. Other possible activities will include a health fair, a parent night showcasing the IPM program, and attending a summer program at Penn State.

"Students will leave the program as empowered community educators," says Bailey. "They'll learn about the ways IPM can reduce health risks associated with pest occurrence and inappropriate use of pesticides. Shaw students will create projects that will serve as a model for implementation of IPM in schools throughout the School District of Philadelphia and statewide."

The PA IPM Program is dedicated to partnering with others to overcome obstacles and to promote IPM education and use in both schools and urban communities. Partnerships for this project include people involved in education, policy and outreach from Penn State Education Partnership Program, Philadelphia Allies Against Asthma, American Lung Association, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia - Community Asthma Prevention Program, Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Center, Delaware Valley Earth Force, Philadelphia Department of Public Health - Vector Control, EPA Region III, Grace Community Christian Center, Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Inc., Lancaster Avenue Business Association, Penn State Department of Agriculture Extension and Outreach, Penn State Philadelphia County Cooperative Extension, Michigan Department of Agriculture - Pesticide & Plant Pest Mgt. Div., Mid-Atlantic Regional Asthma Initiative, Philadelphia Area Labor-Management Committee - Good Schoolkeeping Program, Philadelphia Department of Education, Pittsburgh Board of Education - Plant Operations, School District of Philadelphia - Office of Grants Development and Support, Schuylkill Environmental Education Center, Serious Teens and Adults Acting Responsibly, Shaw Middle School, Philadelphia.

The PA IPM Program is a collaboration between the Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture aimed at promoting IPM in both agricultural and nonagricultural situations. To find out more about the School IPM effort in Pennsylvania, go to the program's web site at http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/schools/schoolIPM.html. Teachers will find an interactive database at http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/schoolipmdb/ along with IPM background information, lesson plans and support materials.

The Lewis Case Technical High School in Detroit also has an IPM program that is run by students and is highlighted in the Beyond Pesticides and the School Pesticide Reform Coalition report Safer Schools: Achieving A Healthy Learning Environment Through Integrated Pest Management.

TAKE ACTION: Besides Pennsylvania, 16 states require schools implement IPM. Find out what state laws and local policies govern your school. Contact Beyond Pesticides to learn how to get your school to adopt an IPM program by:

(1) Identifying the school's pest management policy;
(2) Educating yourself and evaluating the program;
(3) Organizing the school community;
(4) Working with school decision-makers; and,
(5) Becoming a watchdog and establishing an IPM Committee.

For more information, see Beyond Pesticides' Children and Schools issue pages.