It’s a Win-Win Situation for All
The Penn State Pesticide Education Program has a good relationship with its Master Gardener program. Our program needs help staffing displays throughout the year and the Master Gardeners need volunteer hours, so we can help each other. However, for the participant this becomes an even greater win-win situation. Our program strives to develop interactive displays, which are more educational (if you ask us); the Master Gardeners engage our participants to bring the message home; and our participants are learning while having fun. And yes, we are talking about a pesticide safety message!
The following display can be set up at various public events such as county fairs, home and garden shows, and agriculture events where people can stop by at their leisure. The messages can be expanded if you have a captive audience (where groups rotate every 10-15 minutes) such as at a safety day camp or a classroom setting.
Look-Alikes: No Excuse to Guess
One of our first interactive displays is one that anyone can assemble and staff, and it has a great take home message for kids and parents. Leave pesticides and other hazardous products in their original containers! The idea is to show three products that are the same color (think apple juice, outside torch fluid, and a herbicide OR what about window cleaner, sports drinks, and windshield wiper fluid). Now take three small, unlabeled containers (16oz size) and pour the similarly colored liquid into each of the containers. Two of the three unlabeled containers have a Mr. Yuk sticker on the bottom, and one has a blackened Mr. Yuk sticker—indicating the safe product. (Mr. Yuk stickers will be explained later.) Place the labeled containers under a small glass, fish tank aquarium (10 gal) and place the unlabeled products on top.
Can you tell which one is the apple juice? Should you guess? Why or why not? (PLEASE NOTE: we only put the safe product (apple juice or sports drink) in all three the unlabeled containers, so nothing dangerous goes in the unlabeled containers! We have experimented with adding a thickener to make them look a bit different, but we have found that is not even necessary.) You will be amazed at the reaction you will get with this display. The kids want to guess and parents usually have the “ah-ha” moment. The message is clear: Always keep products in their original containers because once they are in an unmarked container to little kids who associate the color of the liquid to everyday drinks that are safe, they could become sick or even die if they would consume even a little amount of some of those products.
To further bring this message home, we give the real example of a day care facility where one staff member went shopping and brought items back to be put away, including a bottle of windshield wiper fluid, which was accidentally placed in the refrigerator by another person. (Have you noticed that some of these products only have labels on the front, with the back of the bottle completely empty? So, if the bottle is turned backwards, it is hard to tell, if not impossible, what it really is but easy to assume what we “think it is.”) Anyway, another person seeing the bottle assumes it is juice and pours it into 10 cups at snack time for the kids ages 2-7, who each drank approximately one ounce of the windshield wiper fluid. All the children were taken to the hospital and were OK, but this could have had a much more tragic ending. This story originally was covered on Arkansas Online (search for “windshield wiper fluid”).
What are Signal Words?
Try to include windshield wiper fluid with deicer for your display. Do you know that the Danger Poison signal word is on those products? That is the most toxic or hazardous signal word; so even as much as a teaspoon would be fatal, and ANYONE can purchase that product! Make sure parents know to keep that product in a safe place (on a high shelf or in locked area).
The Low Down on Mr. Yuk!
Since little kids can’t read, how do they know what products are safe and which are not? We can place a Mr. Yuk sticker on products and teach them never to touch anything that has a Mr. Yuk sticker on it. The National Poison Center phone number is on the Mr. Yuk stickers, just in case someone does have an accidental exposure. Before kids and parents leave our display, we usually send them off with a sheet of Mr. Yuk stickers, which can be requested from our Pesticide Education Program office and packs of 250 Mr. Yuk sticker sheets can be purchased from the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.
This is how we set up just one of our interactive pesticide safety displays. If you would like more information about our look-alike display, please feel free to send us an email.
* Christina Becker, Consumer and Youth Educator: email@example.com
* Kerry Richards, Acting Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Sharon Gripp, Information Specialist: email@example.com (lead author of this blog post)
We look forward to sharing more of our ideas as well as hearing ideas from you. Please check out some of our online resource materials for your programs.
The Master Gardener Program at Penn State, http://horticulture.psu.edu/extension/mg
Penn State Pesticide Education Program Web Site, http://pested.psu.edu/
* Consumer Pesticide Safety Fact Sheet Series, http://blog.pested.psu.edu/
* Penn State Pesticide Education Program Blog, http://blog.pested.psu.edu/
o Look-Alikes: No Excuse to Guess, http://blog.pested.psu.edu/2010/03/15/look-alikes-no-excuse-to-guess/
o Read the Label to Avoid Pesticide Poisonings, http://blog.pested.psu.edu/2010/03/08/read-the-label-to-avoid-pesticide-poisonings/
o Relating Toxicity and Signal Words, http://blog.pested.psu.edu/2010/07/07/relating-toxicity-and-signal-words/