Friday, April 3, 2015

Philadelphia Master Gardeners: Yeah, We Know Mr. Yuk.

Jessica S. Herwick

Mr. Yuk, doing his job.
For one week every year, Master Gardeners throughout Pennsylvania are given the opportunity to participate in a state-wide initiative to expand local awareness of Mr. Yuk and Poison Prevention while simultaneously supporting the Penn State Pest Education Program mission by delivering a special presentation to first grade students in schools throughout the state.  The lesson, designed by PSU Pest Education, features Mr. Yuk and his accompanying Poison Prevention Education, but also incorporates topics like pest identification, differentiating between “good and bad” bugs, and how to read a label.    

Officially, National Poison Prevention Week is held annually across the United States during the third week in March, although awareness and education presentations occur throughout the entire month in many counties.  
Master Gardener Table Set with Presentation Materials

This year, our Philadelphia Master Gardeners helped to celebrate National Poison Prevention Week by introducing city first-graders to Mr. Yuk and teaching youth to identify and avoid contact with toxic substances as well as what to do in a poison emergency.  But the highlight is almost always the conversation about pest identification and bugs - at least until the stickers are handed out at the end.

Master Gardeners enjoy the bug talk just as much.  Presenter Kia Linder pointed out that it’s just as important to talk about the good bugs when working with the youngsters, after all, we Master Gardeners are working hard to save pollinators, and you can’t swat at everything that flies.  Kia said “The best part for me, as a Master Gardener, was explaining to the children that a lot of insects play a major part in the growth of fruits and vegetables we eat to sustain life.”

Philadelphia Master Gardeners Tracy Katz, Kia Linder, Mary Anne Pedrick and Jessica S. Herwick, along with Jim Millisky (an enrolled MG Trainee getting ahead on those volunteer service hours) donated their talents and time to reach over 450 students in 7 schools and several after-school programs throughout the district.  Some joined the Penn State Pest Educators who came into town for program delivery, while coordinator Anna Herman and Master Gardener Michele Doberman helped things run smoothly behind the scenes.  All volunteers managed to distribute materials, knowledge and those cool Mr. Yuk stickers to help to make homes a safer place.
Jim Milliski discussing chemicals with 1st grade students at John B. Kelly School
Students from participating schools including Clara Barton Elementary, Blair Christian Academy, St. Gabriel’s Elementary, John B. Kelly Elementary, J. H. Brown, the Northeast Family YMCA, and Women’s Christian Alliance gathered around presenters on carpets in classrooms across Philly.  These pint-sized participants offered their own advice and suggestions.  For instance, a first grader from J.H. Brown recommended singing to cockroaches when you see them, instead of touching them.  When asked what they’d do if they found their little brother or sister playing with cleaning supplies under the sink, one energetic student chimed in “If your baby brother is playing with the stuff under there, close the doors, lock him in there and then go get your mother.” 

John B. Kelly School student shares his thoughts on chemical pesticides. We agree!
This can be complicated, confusing stuff for elementary schoolers who are naturally independent, inquisitive and prone to immediately rely on senses like taste, touch and smell to identify unknown substances.  This creates all sorts of opportunities for children to ingest a substance that will make them sick. It's a complicated world
out there, full of all sorts of products that intrigue the senses and 8 year old curiosities.  And this is what makes Mr. Yuk such an important safety figure for elementary school-agers. 

For example, the following photo contains 2 bottles with the labels pulled off.  One bottle is a toxic liquid cleaner.  One bottle is a sports drink.  Can you tell which is which?  A lot of the students and teachers had a difficult time telling the difference as well.  
Scroll to the very bottom to see which bottle is toxic. Look for Mr.Yuk.
According to Herwick, who spearheaded the registration and scheduling for the 2015 program, most every school has already pre-registered to bring the Philly Master Gardeners back again in March 2016.  That’s a lot of homework assignments away from the next Poison Prevention Week, but the MG presenters are looking forward to their return as they continue pre-registrations and refine their presentations in preparation for next year.  Philadelphia Master Gardeners intend to expand their reach in 2016 by at least doubling the number of registered Public, Charter and Private schools in the Philadelphia Area.

Educators and school employees interested in registering their first grade classrooms for this free program can contact Anna Herman or Jessica Herwick to get on the list for the 2015-16 school year.  Pre-registration is currently open! 

Looking for More Information?

Interested Philadelphia Master Gardeners can join the working group by signing up on the Volunteer Management System under Poison Prevention in Projects.

More About The History Mr. Yuk and Poison Prevention on This Blog

Pittsburg Poison Center (The Creators of Mr. Yuk)

Penn State Pest Education and Poison Prevention Programming Links

Teachers interested in pre-registration for 2016 Poison Prevention Week Presentations can email Anna or Jessica for more information.
Anna Herman, Master Gardener Coordinator
Jessica Herwick

Mr. Yuk Poison Prevention NATIONAL POSTER CONTEST!
Currently, submissions of children's artwork and poster designs are being accepted for the National Poison Prevention Poster Contest.  The winners artwork will be printed onto posters and distributed nationally in 2016. Parents, Teachers, Caregivers can submit children's work.  See guidelines:

ANSWER: Toxic Cleaner has Mr. Yuk Sticker.
Did you guess right?