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Penn State “Goes Green for Kids” in New Project - January 2011

Posted: January 25, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Safer pest control and cleaning practices are being promoted through a new Penn State educational program geared toward child care providers of home-based and center-based child care facilities.

The Pennsylvania IPM Program has been collaborating with Penn State Cooperative Extension to develop the “Go Green for Kids Initiative” as part of their Better Kid Care Program. A series of webinars, workshops and training packets are being developed for Extension personnel and others to deliver to child care staff and facility managers in Pennsylvania and across the U.S.

Current research increasingly implicates a strong connection between children’s health and everyday practices in indoor environments, such as cleaning and pest control. There are an estimated 16 million children in child care facilities in the US, and most are not consistently protected from indoor pests and/or pesticide exposures. “Even when label directions are followed, the use of common pesticides indoors can leave residues on toys and other surfaces handled by children,” said Amber Brunskill, PA IPM education specialist

The first training module developed by the Penn State collaboration is entitled “Healthy Air + Healthy Spaces = Healthy Children”.  It is designed for extension educators to deliver to child care staff. According to Brunskill, the module guides child care providers through a step-by-step process to evaluate key aspects of their indoor environments to make them healthier and safer for young children. “ The module builds awareness of common-sense precautions and substitutions that can be made in early learning facilities to help protect children from environmental hazards.”

IPM, or integrated pest management, is included in the module as a way to reduce the burden of both pest and pesticide exposures carried by young children.  “Child care staff learn safer practices they can use to help assure a safe and healthy indoor learning environment,” Brunskill explained. IPM emphasizes preventing the conditions that allow pests to thrive as the first line of defense.  If a treatment is needed, less-hazardous products are chosen. “For example, people commonly deal with a cockroach infestation with chemical sprays or foggers. However, these products spread throughout the air and can leave toxic residues behind. A safer method of treatment would include the use of carefully placed gels or bait stations, where pesticides are enclosed and out of reach children,” said Brunskill.

The module contains an instructor manual, power point presentation, handouts for the participants and a pre/post-test. The instructor manual comes complete with step-by-step instructions and a script the presenter can follow. “Because this topic may be unfamiliar to the person presenting the material, we include appropriate resources to assist them with answering questions that may arise during the workshop,” Brunskill explained.

Group activities for participants are built into the script.  For example, there is a “Pest CSI” activity in which participants address a mouse problem in the child care facility. Using the steps of IPM, they determine the safest, most effective course of action to take in an early learning environment. The module also includes information on green cleaners for child care staff, parents and employers.

The module is currently being delivered to extension educators via webinars and face-to-face workshops. The content meets professional development requirements for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Keystone STARS, and Pennsylvania Department of Education Act 48 Continuing Education Credits. “We are excited about the collaboration with the IPM program at Penn State,” said Claudia Mincemoyer, Director, Penn State Better Kid Care Program. “Blending their expertise on healthy environments with our outreach to child care providers is a win for young children. This module will help those caring for young children to evaluate their environments to make them safer and healthier places.”

Additional modules for other audiences will also be created and made available to extension agents and the public. In addition, a monthly newsletter produced by Better Kid Care provides information on popular topics and upcoming webinars. For more information on the program, go the Better Kid Care Program’s web site at http://betterkidcare.psu.edu/.