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Board game teaches students about citrus pest

Board game teaches students about citrus pest

@TheSunGazette

exeter – Protecting the last disease-free bastion of California citrus is not a game, but educating students about it is!

California Citrus Mutual (CCM), the Exeter-based association of citrus growers, reported earlier this month that it has been working with two local teachers on an innovative classroom learning game that incorporates the California citrus industry and specifically teaches students about the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), the pest that spreads the fatal tree disease Huanglongbing (HLB). By utilizing an up-and-coming customizable learning tool, BreakoutEDU, the teachers created their own unique version called “The Bugs Are Breaking In!”

Using information provided by CCM, the teachers created a story for the students to hear in order to get excited about saving citrus and releasing tamarixia, a microscopic parasitic wasp that is a naturally enemy of ACP, from their game box. This story informs the students that there is a bug and disease that is killing the citrus trees in California, but a bug has been discovered that can help. Their goal is to unlock the box that is holding the tamarixia inside and release it to help stop ACP from spreading.

Once they learn the mission, they have a limited amount of time to answer specific questions that will give them clues on how to unlock the six keys to keeping the box closed. These questions and clues give the students a better understanding of what the psyllid looks like, how the tamarixia helps, and why the psyllid is so detrimental for California’s multi-billion citrus industry.

The game leads the students to CCM’s “Citrus Matters” web site with more facts on how everyone can do their part to stop the spread of HLB. Students have already taken this new knowledge home with them and have been telling their family and relatives to check their backyard citrus trees for ACP and to hang sticky traps. Residential citrus trees are the biggest threat to spread of ACP and HLB. Citrus researchers estimate that about 60% of California homes have some type of citrus tree, or about 10 million backyards. The problem is further complicated because pesticides cannot be applied in residential areas.

The two teachers will present their BreakoutEDU game at the California Ag in the Classroom conference on July 14-15 at the Wyndham hotel in Visalia, thanks to a sponsorship by CCM. The citrus grower group said the goal is to use the game to push information into Southern California where ACP is even more prevalent and Tamarixia is already being released. Once teachers have the BreakoutEDU kit, they just go online to print the information for this subject. The information was recently published to the BreakoutEDU Sandbox and will be available for teachers to access and use in their classrooms.

“We are excited to have teachers so invested in our cause and cannot wait to see how far this game spreads throughout California!,” said CCM in a released statement.

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