When the big yellow bus arrives at school in the morning, it could be unloading more than just kids. In communities where bed bugs (Cimex lectularius Linnaeus) are present, children’s book bags are one of their favorite places to hitch a ride to a new home.
Preventing this kind of spread is a core element of integrated pest management (IPM) practices, but it requires education that changes people’s behavior. Bed Bugs and Book Bags, an experiential-learning curriculum available for free from the Jacksonville Bed Bug Task Force and the University of Florida, meets students at their level to instill awareness and knowledge about bed bug prevention.
As reported in a two-part series in 2016 in American Entomologist (read Part I and Part II), the curriculum was developed in response to a call to action from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009. In some cases, schools that have resorted to pesticides to manage bed bug introductions have experienced further problems such as pesticide-related illness, and thus developing a curriculum was a “teachable moment to educate the public about the potential for IPM to reduce the incidence of transferring bed bugs from homes to schools,” according to authors Corraine A. McNeill of the Division of Science and Mathematics at Union College; Erin Harlow of the University of Florida Duval County Extension; and Rebecca Baldwin, Roberto M. Pereira, T. Grady Roberts, and Philip G. Koehler of the UF Department of Entomology.
Between 2011 and 2014, a collaborative group of insect scientists, educators, pest management professionals, public health officials, and social service agencies built and tested the curriculum on the principles of the 4-H experiential learning model and standards set by the Florida Department of Education.
It’s more than just a pamphlet or flyer; the third- through fifth-grade curriculum is a 103-page document that comprises a teacher’s guide and three learning topics with 10 lesson plans. Learning concepts include hygiene and health, critical thinking and understanding, environmental understanding, and more. Hands-on activities include crosswords, word searches, scavenger hunts, and card games.
Pilot testing of the curriculum showed positive learning outcomes across a variety of audiences. Teachers and fifth-graders showed the strongest knowledge gains between pre- and post-curriculum tests, but 4-H agents, master gardeners, and even pest management professionals in the pilot study showed knowledge gains via the bed bug curriculum.
That points to the curriculum’s value beyond its original young target audience. “Nearly half of the educators (47 percent) who downloaded the curriculum do not teach in typical classrooms. Their focus is on the general adult population,” the authors note. “Based on observations from delivering the curriculum across Florida, information from the curriculum will be incorporated into programs in shelters, churches, and a wide range of community facilities.”
- The Bed Bugs and Book Bags curriculum is available for free download after participating in a 30-minute training and a short quiz on bed bug biology, at http://duval.ifas.ufl.edu/Bed_Bugs.shtml
- “Development and Implementation of a Bed Bug IPM Enrichment Curriculum, Part I” (American Entomologist, Summer 2016) and “Development and Implementation of a Bed Bug IPM Enrichment Curriculum, Part II” (American Entomologist, Winter 2016)