“To leave a lasting impression without generating too many nightmares” 

Dr. Tom Green, President of the IPM Institute of North America, on working with live insects and partnering with the National Education Association to bring IPM to more schools

After leading a Stop School Pests training workshop at the Kentucky and Ohio Education Association conference for Education Support Personnel members, Tom Green answered our questions on how to lead a successful IPM training, working with cockroaches and scorpions and shares his tips on how to prepare for an audience that comes with all levels of IPM experience.

Q: Tom, what training or background did most of the participants you met at the Kentucky and Ohio Education Association’s training have? How do you factor participants’ experiences into the training?

Tom Green: Most participants were cleaning professionals working in schools, and we moved rather quickly through the custodian module in the Stop School Pests training. We only had an hour for this classroom-style event, and wanted to reserve time to show some live insects that Dr. Dawn Gouge generously sent from Arizona.

Q: What type of questions did participants have during the training?

One participant asked about bed bugs – a common question on the minds of many school staff. There  were also questions about different kinds of cockroaches, and how to solve problems with American and German cockroaches, the cockroaches most commonly found in facilities in the US.

Q: Are those typical questions, or how did they differ from what you expected?

Those were typical questions. We had the benefit of being able to see live insects, including American, German, Madagascar and death’s head cockroaches, and so that spurred another more detailed round of questions about behavior, feeding preferences, habitat and health risks. There were several participants who took advantage of the opportunity to hold the Madagascar and death’s head cockroaches, and some rather large, 4”-long millipedes that are native to Arizona.

Q: Were participants familiar with IPM before the training? How do you adjust the training to benefit participants with more or less IPM experience?

Most were aware of IPM, but few were very familiar. It’s difficult to adjust the training, because there is almost always a variety of levels of experience. In this case we had a couple of fairly experienced custodians who were able to contribute stories about their experiences successfully resolving pest problems by addressing the causes, not simply treating symptoms. IPM is all about curing pest-friendly conditions like access to food and water, and untended maintenance issues that let pests into places we don’t want them!

Q: What is your favorite part about doing Stop School Pests trainings?

Having live insects present is my absolute favorite. It makes the experience exciting. There is no substitute for seeing a live bed bug in terms of being able to recognize one in the future.

Q: How do you prepare for the trainings?

Other than making sure I was prepared for the number and role of participants, prep mostly involving calling Dawn to arrange for the shipment of critters! The training slides are very well done and easy to present, and I’ve presented the custodian module before so that wasn’t new to me.

Q: When did you decide to start bringing live insects to trainings? Which one is generally the most popular among participants?

I’ve always tried to have live insects on hand one way or the other. Often the trainings I’ve conducted have included a “crawl-through” experience, where we’ve been able to take people through a school campus. In those formats, we almost always come across some live critters to learn from – spiders, ants, birds, drain flies, fruit flies are typical. Depending on what region you are in, American, German, Turkestan and oriental cockroaches, mice, rats, termites, mosquitoes, ticks and feral cats are not uncommon, especially in districts that are new to IPM and have opportunities to improve pest management. IPM can reduce pest complaints by up to 90% or more.

Q: How has working with the NEA to do these trainings benefited your work?

NEA has been a terrific partner! The initial opportunity Tim Barchak, Senior Program/Policy Specialist with the NEA Quality ESP Department, offered was to present to a national meeting of NEA state education coordinators in Washington DC. That group was very enthusiastic and since we’ve had several invites to their states to train members. It’s always so rewarding to share IPM with professionals working in schools – they are so committed to children’s health, and IPM is a great solution to reduce exposure to pests and pesticides, and the asthma risks that come from exposure to cockroaches, mice and dust mites.

Q: You have been providing entomological services and integrated pest management trainings for a long time, do you have any advice for younger integrated pest management trainers?

The more hands on and interactive you can make the experience the better! If time and options are limited, you can still make sure participants have an opportunity to share their experiences and questions, there is no substitute for the real world these dedicated folks work in!

Q: Do you have any memorable stories that you can share from the training?

I love it when someone initially reluctant to get up close and personal with a live creature ends up with one crawling around in their hands!  Madagascar and death’s head cockroaches, and the millipedes are perfect – big and slow. We left the black widow spider, scorpion, bed bugs, mosquito adults and larvae, and American and German cockroaches in their petri dishes and vials, but were able to look at them under magnification and hopefully leave a lasting impression without generating too many nightmares!

More questions? Email afreund@ipminstitute.org


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