School SuppliesPhoto by Nick Amoscato

Let’s start off with a pop quiz (insert obvious, loud groan here!):

Are you aware of your school’s pest control management methods?

I sure wasn’t, nor did I really think about it until recently. Knowing that my family doesn’t use pesticides at home made me take for granted that our school and day care doesn’t either. But that’s not necessarily the case. I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t want my kids tasting the classic mud pie if it’s loaded with unwanted chemicals. Children especially are most at risk. They are giant sponges—mentally and physically—and absorb more in the air they breathe and the food they eat than adults do.

Pesticides are not the best solution. I could go on and on listing the number of health concerns, environmental issues and numerous other objections to using pesticides. But I won’t, when others have done such a good job: Potty Dance, and For the Love of Water: Is Summer Fun Slip-Sliding Away? 

Parents should know there are alternative options to pesticide use in schools and thanks to technology, faster ways to access them. One of the most prevalent solutions is Integrated Pest Management (IPM). In the simplest terms, this method works to eliminate the things which make an area attractive to pests, such as cracks in the walls (shelter, heat), leftover crumbs (food), and leaky pipes (water)—to name a few. Reducing these amenities will lead to decreased pests, and hopefully the school using fewer pesticides as well.

How can you get involved? From what I have read, suggestions outline the same 4 steps for parents. I’ll break them down here:

  • Do your homework: Research the issues and options available. Ask the school what methods of pest control they are using. Learn what other schools in the area are doing to eliminate pests. Read more about pesticide-free options like IPM.
  • Start a group project: Reach out to other parents, faculty, community members, and local representatives to start with. Create a plan and delegate key tasks. The more people are involved the stronger the awareness will become.
  • Offer an apple: Work together with administrators, school board, teachers and others to grow that plan so it will work for everyone.
  • Make the grade: Implement your plan and keep tags on it. Monitor the changes and improve when and where needed. Results show that with IPM, you’ll get an A for flunking out the pesticides.

For a more detailed list of tips and tools, check out Beyond Pesticides, the EPA and other online resources. I even found a variety of YouTube videos, some quite entertaining, on how to implement IPM.

This may sound like a large task, so start small. The first step is simple—ask. I started with the school principal and she directed me to the superintendent. Within a day she e-mailed me the company they use. This company boasts that they are a big advocate of using IPM.  The question is, is the school leveraging that option? I guess I better find out!