Saturday, August 23, 2014

IPM Experience House: A training venue for pest control professionals

The structure for the planned IPM Experience
House already exists.  The house is an old
dormitory that will be remodeled as an extension
facility for pest control training.
How many hours have you spent in classrooms trying to improve your professional knowledge? Can you guess how many PowerPoint presentations you have sat through for the sake of CEU credits?  Now ask yourself, how many hours have you spent practicing new skills under the supervision of a knowledgeable teacher--someone who provided immediate feedback on your performance? Most of us would probably say we’ve spent a lot more time sitting than doing.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with a good classroom presentation.  But most of us also need hands-on instruction to help us grow and retain new ideas.  That’s the idea behind the IPM Experience House, a planned training facility at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas.
IPM Experience House will be modeled after similar training facilities at the University of Florida and at the Orkin House in Atlanta, GA.  The idea is to provide a site where PMPs can practice new skills while getting feedback from teachers and fellow students. 

Wall cut-aways in the Orkin House remind
technicians what's behind the walls of a home.  
Features of the House will include wall cutaways to see normally hidden construction features, actual and mock insect damage, and sites to practice pesticide application.  The facility will include both an existing house retrofitted specially for pest control training, and an outdoor pavilion.  The pavilion will provide a year-round site to observe and interact with different construction features, such as crawl spaces, chimneys, and various foundations and walls.  The house will include a residential and commercial kitchen, hospital room, hotel room and possibly a mock daycare room. 

Besides the visible structure of the house, a critical part of Experience House is a behind-the-scenes curriculum.  Each feature of the house will be built with a learning objective and lesson plan in mind. The House will be set up to allow for different lessons to be tailored to each group.  Apprentices and technician trainees will have a set of training exercises for beginners, while advanced technicians and certified applicators will have more advanced courses to choose from.

An outdoor pavilion, similar to this structure at the
University of Florida's Pest Management University, is
planned as part of Phase II of the project.
Some have asked, why Dallas?  Why not build in College Station?  Since at least 1980 Texas A&M has had an urban entomology presence in Dallas. The Dallas Center currently houses two urban entomology staff, including myself and Janet Hurley, with the school IPM program.  In addition, Dallas is a regular training site for the Ag and Environmental Safety Department when training new technicians.  The Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is also a major Texas pest control market.  Of the almost 15,000 certified pesticide applicators, techs and apprentices in Texas, about 28% work within a 1.5 hour drive of the Center.  This means that businesses can minimize training time and travel expenses by having a training site that is convenient and local.

IPM Experience House is further evidence of the Texas A&M University System’s commitment to the pest control industry. Experience House will complement the new Center for Urban and Structural Entomology and the Philip J. Hamman Termite Control Training School at the Texas A&M main and Riverside campuses, respectively, in Bryan/College Station. Together with the hiring of a new endowed chair of urban entomology, these activities reflect a time of tremendous growth for the relationship between the Texas pest control industry and the University.

The IPM Experience House has been, and will be, a team effort.  Since last year a group of 16 local business owners and industry reps have met as an advisory committee to craft a vision and a plan for the project. Out of this committee came a fundraising campaign and draft blueprint for the site.  By taking advantage of an existing building on the AgriLife campus, a currently unused student dormitory, the committee realized that building costs for the project could be kept to a minimum.  We estimate the cost of remodeling the existing dorm and constructing a 50 x 100 foot outdoor pavilion will be $250,000.  So far, through the generous donations of individuals, our local associations, and local pest control businesses and support industry, we have raised approximately $170,000 in external donations toward this cost.  The committee and I hope to start construction within the next six months.

We still need your help to make Experience House happen.  While Texas AgriLife is providing the land and the existing building, and a significant chunk of start-up dollars, it’s up to the pest control industry to help make this new training facility a reality.  If you or your company are interested in giving to IPM Experience House, click here to download a pledge card.  To learn more about the project, and see a blueprint of the building, visit

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