Master Gardeners Teach Children about Mr. Yuk

Deb Prior
Adams County Master Gardener

Mr. Yuk has been a familiar face in many schools in Adams County during the months of February and March. This green, not very happy face was first seen in the early 1970ís. It serves as a reminder to be careful with chemicals and other common household products that could become a poison if not used properly.

One of the programs offered to children through Penn State Extension is the Poison Prevention Program. Several Adam County Master Gardeners have presented this program to first graders at the Conewago Valley, Gettysburg, Bermudian Springs and Hanover public schools as well as St. Francis, Sacred Heart and the Montessouri School in Gettysburg. Over 750 local students have participated.

The program focuses on mice, bees, flies, mosquitoes and spiders etc. and how to prevent them from becoming pests. The students learn that a fly swatter, window screens, mouse traps and lids on food containers are good preventative measures to keep these pests away. These methods harm the pest, but are not harmful to people as pesticides and chemicals can be. They learn that bees are important for pollination and if a bee is not being bothersome, it should not be killed.

The program also emphasizes the use of chemicals and how to prevent them from becoming poisonous. Common household items such as bleach, bathroom cleansers and lawn chemicals are discussed as well as the labels on these products. CAUTION, WARNING, DANGER and DANGER- POISON are signal words. Children are reminded to wash their hands after using a chemical and to keep products in a locked cabinet or on a high shelf so that it is not within the reach of younger children. They are reminded to keep chemicals away from their eyes and mouths.

Children receive several Mr. Yuk stickers and are asked to attach them to chemicals that are in their home under sinks or in cabinets. They also are shown the National Poison Center Phone Number which it a toll free number to use if a poisoning occurs. That number is on every Mr. Yuk sticker.

If you hear a first grader singing, "Mr. Yuk is mean. Mr. Yuk is green." that is a sign that the child remembers facts about pests and poisons. More importantly learning about Mr. Yuk can help keep them safe!