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No Chewing Allowed

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 12/02/2011 More stories >>

The Educate to Eradicate program aims to teach children about termites while offering scientific and other academic skills.

The Educate to Eradicate program aims to teach children about termites while offering scientific and other academic skills.

Crinch, crinch...pitter, patter.... What’s that? It just might be the sound of your house being eaten by termites. You probably know that Hawai‘i’s warm climate and predominance of wooden construction make it a tasty haven for these woodchewers, and that controlling them requires constant vigilance and occasional clouds of striped tenting. You might even know the name of the most common and formidable of these cellulose snackers: Formosan subterranean, or ground, termites. For more detailed information, though, you might try asking your keiki.

Kenneth Grace’s and Julian Yates’ (PEPS) innovative program Educate to Eradicate aims to provide curriculum, materials, and support to classroom teachers to teach children, from kindergarten through 12th grade, about termites. The 10-year-old program, funded largely by USDAARS, has taught more than 10,000 students in 371 classrooms and has also directly reached over 2,000 adults in an auxiliary adult education seminar series.

Tanya Ashimine of Kaiser High School receiving the national President’s Prize for Outstanding Achievement with CTAHR’s Ken Grace.

Tanya Ashimine of Kaiser High School receiving the national President’s Prize for Outstanding Achievement with CTAHR’s Ken Grace.

The two-fold benefits are laid out in the name. Focusing on a single organism not only educates children about termites but also offers broader scientific and academic skills, from objective observation to creating and testing a hypothesis. Kindergarteners listen to the story of Tammy the Termite’s life, as told by a puppet, while older students learn about chemical signaling and symbiosis and practice dissection. Several classroom teachers have received awards for their successful implementation of the curriculum, including Tanya Ashimine of Kaiser High School, who was recently awarded the national President’s Prize for Outstanding Achievement by the Entomological Society of America.

The education doesn’t just take place in the classroom. The project uses the fact that kids love to teach their elders in order to disseminate important termite eradication and prevention information throughout the community. For instance, a group of schoolchildren in Palama Settlement went door to door through their neighborhood, offering kupuna fliers they’d created with basic prevention tips.

This leads to the program’s second benefit: It’s helping to eradicate this serious threat, putting an appreciable dent in the damage done by termites. With a short-term goal of increasing community awareness and implementation of termite-prevention measures and a long-term goal of increasing termite awareness and scientific literacy in the homeowners and homebuilders of tomorrow, Educate to Eradicate has lofty goals...and, unlike some termite-riddled houses, a solid foundation.