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School Reduces Pesticide Use While Educating Students
(Beyond Pesticides, April 23, 2004) A program at a Philadelphia school is reducing pesticide use while teaching students how to recognize, manage and prevent pests and pesticide related health risks by using integrated pest management (IPM). The state of Pennsylvania describes IPM as a technique that “integrates knowledge of pest identity and biology with pest monitoring so that actions, if any can be taken at just the right time. In addition, IPM uses a combination of management tactics such as biological, cultural, physical and chemical that is most likely to be safe and effective.”

All public schools in Pennsylvania are now required to have an IPM plan in place to manage pests in school buildings and on school grounds. The new legislation also prohibits pesticide applications when students will be present in the school building or on school grounds within seven hours after the application, and will require schools to notify parents who request advance notification before applying pesticides in or around schools.

The program at Shaw Middle School in West Philadelphia involves 22 fifth-graders, and it is implemented and managed by a team consisting of Penn State education specialists, school teachers and IPM program personnel. Part of the team is the school district staff. Joe Bondiskey, pest control foreman for the Philadelphia School District, along with his associate Keith Griffin, visit the students twice a month to teach and demonstrate the basics of an IPM program. "Currently, we're giving the students an overview of roach and mice IPM and showing them all the IPM tools used in preventing and controlling these pests," explains Mr. Bondiskey. "We've even had the children caulking holes and crevices to close off potential entryways for pests." In addition, he teaches the students how to identify pests and explains why one tool may be better than another for controlling the pest. "Our ultimate goal is that the students will transfer the IPM message to their homes and community at large through community outreach.”

Mr. Bondiskey has been with the school district for seventeen years, and in that time has seen pest control change dramatically. “When I first started, we had to spray chemicals daily to control pests populations. Using fogging agents to control roaches and other pests every weekend was routine,” he says. Things started to change in the early 90s as people became more aware of the risks of pesticide use, so he and the other pest control operators began adding IPM tools and emphasizing prevention over spraying. Shaw Middle School has gone from controlling pests with a 55 gallon drum of insecticide to using over 50 IPM tools. It went from 100 percent chemicals to about 5 percent chemicals.

Mr. Bondiskey says he likes the change. "The IPM program is more effective and easier to use since all you really need are baits and exclusion." Shaw Middle School has replaced routine sprays with tactics such as crack and crevice gels and closed roach and bait stations. He thinks the education program at Shaw has been a success as well. "It's my first time working with the students, and it's been great to see the kids learning through hands-on activities. Often inner-city kids have the same pest problems at home, so now they know how to deal with it," explains Mr. Bondiskey.

The program is part of the Pennsylvania IPM Program's Philadelphia Community IPM Partnership. Formed last year to conduct an IPM education effort based on service learning, the project aims to build the capacity of students at the Shaw Middle School to recognize, manage, and prevent pest and pesticide related health risks by using IPM. 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. 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.

To find out more about PA IPM's Community IPM effort, go the program's Web site at http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/community.html.

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.