Ag Teachers Test SCRUB Biosecurity Education Curriculum

Horse barn

*Article co-authored by Betsy Greene and Kris Hiney

The SCRUB (Science Creates Real Understanding of Biosecurity) Kit is a hands-on curriculum in the final stages of development, and designed for use in agriculture classrooms or with youth groups such as 4-H. The laboratory activities are designed to be very adaptable to any environment, whether in a classroom, at a livestock facility, or somewhere in between.

The kits cover important concepts and aspects of biosecurity education that emphasize and reinforce:

  • principles of disease transfer and routes of transmission.
  • proper methods of cleaning and disinfecting.
  • the importance of vaccine handling.
  • how to design biosecure farms.

The SCRUB Kit Labs stand alone, and will supplement online biosecurity educational modules that were developed with grant funding from the Animal Disease Biosecurity Coordinated Agricultural Project (ADBCAP). The ADBCAP grant also funded SCRUB Kits, which were created by Betsy Greene, PhD, from the University of Arizona, and Kris Hiney, PhD, from Oklahoma State University.

Agricultural teachers from all over New England got a chance to “play student”, and try out several of the activities at the 2019 New England Agricultural Teachers Conference (NEAT) in Stockbridge, MA. Teachers participated in an activity from three different SCRUB modules after a speedy perusal of the teacher’s guide prior to each activity.

SCRUB Lab Agriculture Biosecurity Teacher Workshop
SCRUB Lab vaccine cooler activity

SCRUB Lab Activities

For the first activity, teachers worked in groups to create a vaccine cooler using cardboard, Styrofoam, frozen water bottles, and thermometers. After the other activities were done, teams checked their cooler temperatures for the lowest (42°F) to determine who designed the best cooler.

In the second activity, the scenario began with teachers being given small samples of facility surfaces (tile, floor matting, rough wood, and smooth wood) that were “contaminated” with pseudo-manure from a diseased animal. An imaginary truck broke a main waterline for their facility, so they had limited resources with which to work, and had to use them wisely to clean and disinfect each surface. Ultraviolet light exposed any disease on the surfaces that had not been completely removed.

SCRUB Lab Agriculture Teacher Workshop on Surface Disinfection
Agriculture teachers learning about surface disinfection
SCRUB Lab: Betsy Greene shining ultraviolet light on disinfected surface
Betsy Greene shining an ultraviolet light on disinfected surface to detect diseases

Finally, the participants tackled a disease transmission SCRUB activity. This involved “exchanging fluids” (paper cups with white liquid) with two different people in the room before going to get checked for infection. If they were healthy, paper cup contents turned brownish with the addition of a substrate, and infected cup contents turned purple. “Sickies” were quarantined on the side of the room, and the group then traced back exposures to determine which teacher represented the original disease source.

SCRUB Lab participants exchange mock diseases during biosecurity workshop
Teachers exchange mock diseases
SCRUB Lab: Kris Hiney distributes mock diseases for biosecurity workshop
Kris Hiney testing the disease cups
SCRUB Lab: agriculture teacher displays mock infection during workhop
Ag teacher displays her mock disease transmission

Curriculum Illustrates Key Biosecurity Principles

Participants in a SCRUB workshop at the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators conference (MAVA) in Marlboro, MA also tried their hands at cooler-making and facilities cleaning and disinfecting. Teachers were impressed with the fun factor of the kits and bringing science to light. The activities clearly illustrated the key principles of biosecurity that youth could immediately put to use in keeping both their animals and themselves healthy. Youth learn best by doing, and feedback from the workshop participants indicated that teachers were eager to use the SCRUB curriculum in their classrooms.

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