Schools are often a primary avenue through which the pest can spread, as it hitches a ride from one place to another in clothes and book bags. Educating teachers and students about bed bugs, parasitic insects that feed exclusively on blood, can be a powerful tool to deal with spread of pests.
A team of scientists, educators, pest management professionals, public health officials and social service agencies created bed bugs and book bags, an experiential-learning curriculum available for free from the Jacksonville Bed Bug Task Force and the University of Florida. Between 2011 and 2014, bed bugs and book bags were built and tested on the principles of the 4-H experiential learning model and standards set by the Florida department of education.
‘Educating teachers and students about bed bugs, parasitic insects that feed exclusively on blood, can be a powerful tool to deal with spread of pests.’
Third- through fifth-grade curriculum was a 103-page document comprising a teacher's guide and three learning topics with 10 lesson plans and the learning concepts includes hygiene and health, critical thinking and understanding, environmental understanding and more. Hands-on activities include crosswords, word searches, scavenger hunts and card games.
The study, published in American Entomologist, showed that 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.
"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 researchers found. "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 authors concluded.
Awareness and prevention education such as bed bugs and book bags align with the principles of integrated pest management, a comprehensive, science-based approach to deal with pests using strategies that are effective, economically sound and ecologically compatible.