Two new online resources provide a wealth of information on managing pests in schools

Three years ago, the principal at John McDonogh High School in New Orleans knew he needed help with multiple pest problems at the school but wasn’t sure where to start. Now two websites exist that provide any school personnel with materials on how to use integrated pest management to handle a pest problem.

In 2014, Dawn Gouge at the University of Arizona and Janet Hurley at Texas A&M AgriLife received two separate grants from the Environmental Protection Agency to provide online resources on integrated pest management for school personnel. Gouge used her grant to focus on education and training for personnel, while Hurley planned a one-stop online “big box store” of IPM resources, including documents, training, pest ID pamphlets, state legislation and more.

The training website, Stop School Pests (stopschoolpests.org), resulted from a collaboration of 42 people from federal and state agencies, universities, school districts, tribes, advocacy organizations and industry. Together they proposed to build a resource that would increase IPM adoption in K-12 schools and reduce the risks from pests and repeated pesticide use.

Stop School Pests provides PowerPoint presentations for in-class teaching and interactive webinars for online use. Lessons are specific to different roles within a school, so that facility staff has access to different material from food service staff and school nurses. All trainings are about an hour long.
PastedGraphic-1While some groups, such as facility managers and maintenance personnel, were eager to delve into the materials, others such as nurses and coaches initially did not think the subject matter pertained to them. However, several who participated in some of the in-class lessons said that they did not realize how much they did not know about pest management and were glad that they took the lessons.

“I have been a school nurse for 25 years, and I cannot believe I learned so much helpful information in just one hour,” said Mary Griffin, a nurse in Arizona.

A softball coach said that she did not realize that spraying pesticides without a license was illegal in her state until she went through the training.

For personnel who need specific information or don’t know where to turn first once a pest problem starts, the iSchoolPestManager website provides over 1,000 resources, including the educational materials from Stop School Pests.

The iSchoolPestManager.org site was built as a large online mine of school IPM resources from every state. Staff from Texas A&M AgriLife spent several months collecting materials; then volunteers from throughout the country, even one from Israel, painstakingly combed through them to eradicate duplicates, outdated materials or references to materials that no longer existed. The initial 1,315 resources were pared down to 1,045 entries. Staff at the National Pesticide Information Center in Oregon helped design and build the website.

“Collecting the resources took around a year as each states information had to be reviewed,” said Hurley. “In a lot of cases we were given a link to the state resource website. At that point the project team downloaded documents for the final review. It wasn’t until I sat down and went through every line of the all the documents did I notice a lot of duplicates. It was these items we were trying cull out and then determine what is missing.“

iSchoolPestManager siteThe site is formatted for a standalone computer, with a separate link that will bring up special formatting for a smart phone or tablet. Resources are divided into four areas: geographically specific, professional trainings and other materials, insect-specific information, and groups of documents such as fact sheets, regulations, checklists and more.

Rather than duplicate information already provided at other websites, Hurley decided to link to them. For instance, self paced instruction under “Training Modules” links to pages hosted by eXtension. Some of the PowerPoint presentations are located at Bugwood. Some of the educational links go to videos at university websites.

While the amount of information in iSchoolPestManager might seem overwhelming at first, users looking for specific information will be able to use the headings and sections to locate what they need more easily.

“The ultimate achievement of this website would be not only for all those working in school IPM to use, but also to contribute to it,” said Hurley. “I hope that the next generation of IPM Change agents use this tool and build upon it so that in the future, schools have the tools they need to sustain their IPM and IAQ programs.”

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