Area Students Meet Familiar Green Face

Posted: March 26, 2015

Here is a newspaper story (reprinted with permission) that was run in the Daily News about the Huntingdon County Master Gardeners facilitating a Poison Prevention Program to nearly 90 first graders! Our Penn State Pesticide Education Program encourages any group to share their stories and photos of the Poison Prevention Program with us!
Top part of an infographic from the Poison Prevention Week Council, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. See bottom of article for link to see the entire thing.

Top part of an infographic from the Poison Prevention Week Council, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. See bottom of article for link to see the entire thing.

By Claire Williams, Daily News Staff Writer

A familiar green face with furled eyebrows and tongue sticking out reminded kids some things aren't safe to touch or taste.

Mr. Yuk was recently introduced to Standing Stone Elementary students by the Penn State Extension Master Gardener program. The group of gardeners, including Keppy Arnoldsen, Greta Vogler, Donna Hawbaker and Linda Moist, taught nearly 90 first graders about preventing poisonings.

Arnoldsen also used stuffed animals to teach students about pests and the methods used to control them. "The first way is cultural," Arnoldsen said. She explained this method includes things like making sure there aren't crumbs in the kitchen for insects and mice to find.

"The second method, biological, means using other animals, like cats, to control pests," she said. The third method is mechanical, she explained. "This means using traps. If you touch them, they can hurt you," she said. "The last way is chemical, using poisons." Arnoldsen said. "It's bad for the mice, it makes them very sick. Be careful around poison."

The students learned Mr. Yuk was developed in Pittsburgh as a warning to children that products would make them sick. Moist explained that there are certain words on labels that warn something is bad, or toxic. "The first word is caution. You can get sick or throw up if you drink it, it might burn your skin if you touch it," she said. "The second word is warning. This will make you more sick than something that says caution. The third word is danger. Danger means very toxic." They explained that poison is another word to go with danger. "Labels with these words might also have a skull and crossbones with them.

Things with these words get a Mr. Yuk sticker so that you, or your little brothers and sisters, know they're bad," said Hawbaker. "What do you need to remember? Never put things in your mouth if you don't know what it is. Only drink things that an adult says are safe."

She showed students a variety of brightly colored drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, and how close in color they are to some household cleaners."Some things might look the same color, but one will make you sick," she said."If you're not sure, ask an adult if it's safe," Moist said.

Arnoldsen told them that there also other ways poisons can make them sick. She said children should also be careful what they touch. "Your hands are very absorbent. If you touch a chemical, even if you go wash your hands, you should always tell your parents that you accidently touched something," she said. "You can also breath them in accidently when you're running around playing."

The women explained each Mr. Yuk sticker has a phone number on it. "The number works anywhere in the United States. It will give you the nearest poison control center, and they'll tell you what do to if you think you've been poisoned," she said. "You can put a Mr.Yuk sticker on your phone so you'll always have the number when you need it," Arnoldsen said.

She told the class they could also have their parents put a sticker on the inside of the cabinet where they store the cleaning chemicals. They told them their parent's homework was to learn about Mr.Yuk in a packet they handed out, which included stickers. They also recommended chemicals be stored high, out of the reach of little hands. "If they're not up high, lock them in a cabinet," Arnoldsen said.

The women's last bit of advice for the children was that if they aren't sure what something is, don't touch it, and tell an adult about it.

Mr. Yuk was started in the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh by Dr. Richard Moriarty. Dr. Moriarty started the project because in Pittsburgh, kids were associating the skull and crossbones with the Pittsburgh Pirates' Jolly Roger logo instead of poison. Mr. Yuk was developed by asking children about various images and color options, and got his name because one child described the color that was selected as "yucky."

National Poison Prevention Week is Sunday, March 15, to Saturday, March 21.

Claire can be reached at

See the entire Poison Peril infographic.