By: Jodi Schmitz, Project Assistant, IPM Institute of North America
Looking for something to keep the kids busy this summer? Want to teach them about pests, pesticides and IPM? Let them become the Pest Private Eye, a detective who helps schools solve their pest problems! The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension’s Pest Private Eye and the Case of IPM in Schools (Pest PI) is a free educational video game that teaches kids about pests and IPM.
As the Pest Private Eye avatar, kids explore the rooms of Eureka Elementary School, pick up IPM tools such as a vacuum cleaner, window screens and snap traps, and use them to manage various pests. “In some parts of the game, you need to apply critical thinking to find out how to deal with difficult pests,” says Erin Bauer, extension associate at the Pesticide Education Office for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). “The cockroaches in the kitchen are one example. In real life, you may need to use both sticky traps and roach bait to manage them and it’s the same in the game.”
Bauer and Clyde Ogg, associate extension educator for pesticide safety education at UNL, have been working on Pest PI in some form since 2007. “We had a few beta versions and it just got better as we went along,” says Bauer. “The first version looked more like a cartoon but then we transitioned to a 3D look.” It mimics role-playing point-and-click games that are popular with kids today.
Bauer says the purpose of the game was to get the word out about IPM. “Hopefully, kids can walk away with one or two things that they can tell their friends or parents which helps bring IPM to an even broader audience.”
In addition to the game, there is also a comic book of Pest Private Eye’s adventures at Eureka Elementary School, as well as a teacher’s guide, Power Point and other IPM resources for child care facilities. Educators can use the game and associated materials in their classrooms, 4-H groups, libraries or other environments.