“Escaping” Traditional Vector Education
Many mosquito and vector control agencies have found that youth programs are fantastic ways to expand their educational reach. Students are avid learners, are outstanding conduits of information back to their families, and will be future homeowners, planners, and decision makers.
But reaching today’s youth requires a new angle. In our modern, tech-driven world, students can be easily bored by traditional education methods, and school districts are constantly striving for more inclusive STEM/STEAM programs that can help satisfy multiple standards. Additionally, since funding cuts have all but eliminated fieldtrips for schools, teachers are often desperate for programs that can bring some magic to their students.
At the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD), youth education has taken on an exciting new twist. The District’s flagship mobile education classroom, the VecMobile, was recently replaced by a high-tech mobile science education vehicle – the Mosquito SWAT Lab – which showcases giant interactive 3D, computer-generated mosquitoes; virus replication; and disease transmission cycles. All of this while hands-on microscope lessons immerse students into the amazing world of the mosquito life cycle and SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) technology.
But the wow-factor of the mobile unit isn’t always enough. So, the District’s Education Program Coordinators weave in a combination of humor, music, and current trends to complete the cavalcade of experiences designed to cement memory and knowledge into students’ developing brains.
Empowering students to take actions at home and in their neighborhood to identify and eliminate mosquito breeding sites is an ongoing goal for the District. With the reported tripling of vector-borne disease incidence in the U.S., it has never been more important to train today’s youth to be better stewards of their environment. Vector control districts can’t tackle it all, but they can work to ensure today’s youth mature into thoughtful, global thinkers and ensure they understand how the decisions they make – or don’t make – matter.
While assessing the District’s own programs and surveys on student knowledge, GLACVCD staff soon realized that critical thinking and teamwork elements were missing from its curriculum. Students were not quite sure what they could do to make a real difference. Enter the “The Emergence of the Culex morbis” Escape Room Kit. Built on the popular ‘escape room’ concept, these require students to work in teams to find clues to unlock four levels. Their goal: clean up their communities and prevent Professor VonBloodtrap and his herd of virus cats from unleashing the dreaded virus-laden Culex morbis on the town of Cheeseville.
Students have 20 minutes to unlock the clues, solve the puzzles, and find the life-saving vaccine.
The Emergence of the Culex morbis” Escape Room Promotional Video
Built on the popular ‘escape room’ concept, “The Emergence of the Culex morbis” Escape Room Kit requires students to work in teams to find clues to unlock four levels.
The kits are portable and ideal for the classroom. A three-month assessment of the Escape Room kits’ viability and efficacy in early 2019 revealed some interesting insights: 1) Lower performing schools were not reading at grade level, and thus less able to complete the kits in the allotted time, 2) students are capable of breaking titanium (in other words, use the strongest materials possible), 3) students are learning that they make a difference, and 4) students LOVE these kits!
Perhaps most inspiring and heartwarming for the GLACVCD team was that that teachers are in awe of the changes they see in their students when using the kits. Many reported seeing their “worst” students become effective team leaders, their “checked-out” students becoming completely engaged, and some of their lowest-performing students proving they’re far smarter than they let on.
The results reinforced what was behind the team’s newest innovation: Students are diverse and respond to diverse teaching modalities. Research shows that if you don’t inspire them, you lose them. By using fun and engaging tools to reach the visual learners, the kinesthetic learners, and the auditory learners, instructors can create an immersive experience that will stay with students for a lifetime.
In the current school year, the District has begun offering the Emergence of the Culex morbis Escape Room Kits to older grades (6th-7th) on a lottery basis to help expand the District’s reach to other schools. Creating these kits was a labor of love for District staff and GLACVCD is happy to share what they have developed with other districts. Those interested in learning more about the kits or obtaining the materials list and kit content files can contact Mary-Joy Coburn, Director of Community Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or (562) 758-6510 for additional information.