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The Dietrick Institute for Applied Insect Ecology was established in 1996 to provide cross–disciplinary training in ecologically based pest management and sustainable agriculture, farming and gardening practices. Over the past 14 years, we have offered classroom presentations, field days, in–field workshops and public demonstrations focused on youth, agricultural laborers, farmers, and specifically women and girls. Staff has been trained in curriculum development using drawing, story–telling, and drama to facilitate learning.

Our programs vary widely to fit the needs of target groups. A multi–year donor gift helped us train small scale farmers in SE Asia with SE Asian and UC Riverside entomologists. The California Energy Commission funded our habitat enhancement farmer training in California with support from retired entomologist volunteers. We've collaborated with Biological Agriculture Systems in Cotton to train Hispanic farm workers that increased their value to growers. Our work was showcased in outreach tours funded by the Patagonia Environmental Grants Program. Youth programs bring in live beneficial insect exhibits to classrooms, expositions, career days, and events at Faulkner Farm. Our demonstration garden on the Ventura River Trail invites users to observe insect attracting plants.Volunteers help the garden provide a public face on the bike trail. We provide subjects for Brooks Institute visual journalism students and art and drama enliven visits with children. Other community projects are listed at www.dietrick.org.


The project's target population is youth, half with Hispanic parents, of whom 20,000 to 30,000 work on farms in our county according to Ventura County Farm Bureau and US Department of Education statistics. Farm Bureau data cites county households are five times more likely than the national average to be economically dependent on agriculture. The Bureau also states that our county uses over 7 million pounds of insecticides and herbicides annually, while holding only five percent of crops in organic production. The US Poison Control Center reports over 1000 pesticide poisonings per year in California, with children at highest risk. CHAMACOS, a project of the U.C. Berkeley Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research, cites risks from pesticide exposure to farm worker families. Research by Dr. Veronica Gonzales collaborating with CHAMACOS hypothecizes that subtle cancer–causing effects of agricultural pesticides on DNA may cause leukemia and possibly other cancers more prevalent in people living on or near farms. Gonzales is using new lab techniques that show how such genetic damage may be passed to future generations. Our program aims to reach not only the farming community but also the community at large. By educating their children about non–toxic pest control methods we can address this serious public health concern.

This project also meets the need of the California State Educational Content Standards for students to know the relationships of food chains and food webs in agricultural ecosystems and to become acquainted with the joy of the arts. A recent survey of school principals by UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access has revealed severe cuts in arts programs. Incorporating the arts into science education where it is not traditionally found offers so much more than typical science lessons and increases the depth and breadth of arts use in the county. If the project is sustained annually through wide community support most local children could be empowered to make safer choices about pest control as they grow older.


This project combines folk and performance art in a puppet show designed to educate Ventura Unified 4th grade students, families, teachers and the public about the ecological use of the County's agricultural environment. Use of the arts is not only one of the prerequisites for effective training, it also builds bonds of community and creates greater visibility than a more typical scientific approach to training about agroecology. The intriguing aspect of bugs eating bugs combined with the medium of performing arts makes the project unusually newsworthy and a stimulating topic of conversation leading changes in attitudes and behavior in the community of need. Incorporating the arts in the puppet shows as well as in subsequent events, publicity and surveys will have a transformative influence on the community. Educating the community about safe pest control will also raise awareness about the Dietrick Institute, its history and place in the community, its knowledge base and goals.

In a three to four month period, during the fall of 2010, the project will reach 17 schools or 1780 Ventura County School District 4th grade students, their families, teachers and the public with effective learning about safe pest control methods for farms and gardens. We expect increased interest in the concepts of insects and foodwebs as well as notable changes in students' behavior toward insects. Bilingual English/Spanish take–home materials will help to disseminate the message to family, neighbors and their coworkers. The shows will make ecologically based pest control concepts available to school personnel. More of the community will become informed about these concepts and issues through referrals to our website where they can review and share learned concepts. We expect at least two news articles and minimum 1,000 hits to related blog posts and 2,000 youTube viewings of performance taping.


JUNE: Make contacts: principals, teachers, and public art administrators; develop grade appropriate briefings about ecological farming practices, contributing art project, and other take home materials for participating teachers and the public; continue roundtable script development.

JULY: Distribute grade appropriate briefings about ecological farming practices and any contributing lessons to participating teachers.; procure materials for staging, puppets and props; create and build stage; make puppets; pilot test script with interested school representatives and incorporate feedback; review information, concepts, lessons or teacher questions.

AUG: Finish stage and puppets; one rehearsal per week to include a teacher for input; prepare, distribute performance schedule; staff review any information, concepts, lessons or teacher questions.

SEPT: One rehearsal per week; two performances per week; collect surveys; Internal Mid–Project Evaluation and Report.

OCT: One rehearsal per week; two performances per week; videotape one performance; collect surveys.

NOV: One rehearsal per week; two performances per week throughout the month; collect surveys.

DEC: One rehearsal per week; two performances per week during the first two weeks; collect surveys; complete public performances; collect surveys; project interim report for VCCF and Updated Grantee Program Plan; internal program evaluation; program summary for schools; Ventura County Ag Futures Alliance focus group.


The following professional staff from the institute will develop, deliver, analyze and follow up on the project: (Students in the Ventura College Theater Department will also be recruited as volunteers.) Youth and Arts Education Program Coordinator (Project Leader) : Duke Gribble will lead the project development, implementation, analysis and follow up. Duke Gribble received his State of California K–12 teaching credential and cum laude baccalaureate degree from Northridge University, while majoring in English and Theater. He has over 10 years experience as an environmental educator using hands on activities to instruct children and adults and has been recognized by the United States Presidency with a Certificate of Merit for service to the nation through environmental protection. He is currently working on an entomological internet database.

Project Assistant: Bryce Adolphson will assist the development and implementation of the project. As well as participating in the biocontrol industry in Ventura County, Bryce works as a photojournalist and non–profit Project Coordinator for Mama Hope, a US–based NGO. His projects have included using the arts to train East African youth and adults in a number programs including drip irrigation, community banking and self expression through photography. He is also Treasurer on the Dietrick Institute Board of Directors.


By utilizing in–school performances, we are creating partnerships not only with students and their families, but also showing ourselves to be a valued addition to the Ventura Unified School District curriculum we can attract continuing program funding.

Our take home material will help to raise awareness of our organization through the promotion of pest control methods at home and work. Bilingual English/Spanish materials will help a wider community become familiar with us. Families will be directed to our website where they will be encouraged to explore other avenues of our work.

Public performances will be prefaced by news releases and supported by the City of Ventura's Cultural Affairs Department that has committed to assist by hosting performances. Posters and contributed student artwork will be distributed in lobbies of collaborative agencies and public places. Memoranda, brochures, surveys and website information will be distributed before and after performances. Media publicity, YouTube coverage, blog posts, and e–newsletters will further serve to raise the face of the Dietrick Institute to the public and donors.


Summary correspondence with our collaborative partners will help us evaluate how mutual agency goals were met. During the four months of the project, up to 30 teacher surveys will collect the impressions and conceptual understanding of over 1700 students. Optional student art projects relating to the performance will be encouraged, collected and evaluated for thematic understanding. Simple questionnaires at public events will gauge community responses and understanding. Changes in subsequent activity on the institute's website and inquiries to our office will be measured. The Ventura County Ag Futures Alliance roundtable members will be invited to a focus group to assess the project's benefit to the community. An internal project summary and analysis will be made available to contributing agencies. A survey to measure changes in attitude and behavior with regard to pest control practices is not economically practical.


The Dietrick Institute will work collaboratively with the Ventura Unified School's Healthy Schools Project, Ventura Unified School District, City of Ventura Cultural Affairs and Public Arts Commission, Working Artists Ventura (WAV), the Ventura College Theater Department and other agencies.

Ventura Unified School District and the Healthy Schools Project have agreed to host our program and offer it to school principals with the aim of building a relationship between school communities and local agriculture and fulfilling California State Educational Content Standards. To assure coherence with their goals, we will ask for verification, during development and implementation that the project is meeting mutual goals. Our project complements previous agriculture literacy programs in the schools and we welcome the experience and input of these collaborators. The teacher surveys and direct inquiries will supplement a project evaluation for collaborating agencies.

Collaboration with the City of Ventura Cultural Affairs and Public Arts Commission includes its offer to host our show at mutually beneficial public events. The Working Artists Ventura (WAV) project agrees to collaborate with our project by hosting our public events and displays. We will do inaugural performances in WAV's new public theatre space assisting them in their goal to contribute to the vitality of our community. Follow–up communication will invite future collaborations. Collaboration with the Ventura College Theater Department will provide opportunities to students volunteering to contribute to develop and perform the puppet shows.


The project's total cost of $9,181.00 will fund the development, implementation and evaluation of puppet shows at 17 schools plus 4 public performances. The staff requirements for this project represent the start of a Youth and Arts Education Program of the Dietrick Institute. The amount of $5731.00 requested from VCCF will mostly support a new part time Youth and Arts Education Program Coordinator and cover travel expenses from June to Dec 2010 for the project. The institute receives support from Rincon–Vitova Insectaries that will partially fund the project's coordinator, project assistant and administrative costs. Unearmarked funds are available for supplies. Two members of our Board of Directors are currently taking the VCCF proposal writing course with the goal of expanding our Youth and Arts Education Program.

The number of presentations of the puppet show can be increased or decreased. A minimum of $1850 is needed to prepare and wrap up the project. To perform at 10 schools and 4 public performances requires $1920 for the coordinator's time and for travel expenses for the coordinator and assistant. Thus, a minimum of $3770 funding is needed to enable the cost of preparation, doing 14 performances, and wrap–up.

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