Thursday, May 6, 2010

Be an IPM Detective!!

Following is a reprint of an article that was published in various newsletters to let people know about our IPM youth project, Pest Private Eye!

The University of Nebraska--Lincoln Extension has developed an educational first person role playing video game, Pest Private Eye and the Case of IPM in Schools to teach children and the educators who work with them about pests and how to control them using Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The purpose of IPM is to try other methods first and use pesticides only after these other methods have been tried. IPM includes sanitation, exclusion, moisture reduction, mechanical controls, habitat modification, biological controls, and low toxic chemical controls. IPM reduces exposure to pesticides, increases human health and safety, and protects the environment.

With a primary audience of 4th-6th graders, the game teaches about pests and IPM through the virtual investigation of Eureka Elementary, a school invaded by pests such as flies, roaches, rodents, ants, and spiders. By learning about and identifying pests, exploring rooms, picking up and using tools, and interacting with school personnel, the player, as Pest Private Eye, helps to solve the school’s pest problems. Pest Private Eye’s assistant, Penny Poe, helps players navigate through the game and presents summaries of important concepts.

During gameplay, students learn about and implement various IPM strategies, including reducing clutter or cleaning up trash (sanitation), screening windows (exclusion), sealing holes (habitat modification), fixing leaks (moisture reduction), trapping (mechanical controls), and using low toxic baits (chemical controls). By using a magnifying glass when they see a pest, players learn about the importance of identifying a pest before controlling it. Players have access to a “Pest ID” book as a reference when they need help in identification, and can also gain clues by speaking with the principal and other school staff about what pests have been noticed around the school. Students learn about what tools are useful when implementing IPM, such as gloves and HEPA masks when working with droppings, flashlights, sticky traps, snap traps, bait, and trash bags. If players need a hint, that is available too! During the game players meet a pest management professional (PMP) working for Eureka Elementary, who gives Pest Private Eye his cell phone number, enabling players to “call” for help throughout the game. In the real world, this interaction with school administration, staff, and the PMP represents the teamwork required for establishing an IPM policy for a school, and how combined efforts make IPM a success.

The game has been piloted in libraries, summer 4-H camps, and after school programs, and UNL Extension received valuable survey feedback from pilot participants. Through an EPA grant we created a newly revised game, integrating suggestions from survey data, which includes more challenges and complexity. In addition, we developed a Teacher’s guide with activities that can be used to teach IPM in the classroom, and a Pest Private Eye comic book.

For more information about Pest Private Eye and the Case of IPM in Schools, including links to a demo, the Teacher's Guide, comic book, and other IPM resources, please visit

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