MAY, 2000
Susan P. Whitney (1) and Jo A. Mercer (2)

    How to use this manual
    Active Learning
        A. Definition
        B. Why doesn't everyone use active learning?
        C. Making a classroom comfortable
        D. The active learning toolbox
        E. Getting ready to use active learning
   Be Safe with Pesticides! Read The Label.  Lesson plan
   Be Safe with Pesticides! Read The Label.  Speaker's directions & script

    The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Judy Greene, Director, Center for Teaching Effectiveness, University of Delaware, Newark DE 19717 for her assistance in the preparation of this manual.  This project was supported, in part, by an EPA Region III Environmental Education Grant, "Increasing effectiveness of homeowner pesticide safety training using active learning technique."

    This manual is written for Master Gardeners.  It is meant to be used in conjunction with the Extension County Agents & Specialists Train-the-Trainer Manual of the same title.  These manuals are designed to teach the educational technique of active learning and use the lesson "Be Safe With Pesticides!  Read the Label" as an illustration.  Bonwell and Eison (1991) state that a person's attention span in the class room is about 10-15 minutes.  It is important to change teaching styles accordingly.  This manual will show you how.


    Active learning is best described by contrasting it to the traditional technique of lecture. In a lecture, the instructor stands in front of the class and "gives" information. Members of the audience may "take" the information or they may not. Lectures are sometimes considered to be "passive learning." However, educators know that learning can never be a passive activity. Active learning is an educational technique that de-emphasizes transmitting facts. Students learn by doing activities, thinking about the subject and relating it to their everyday life.

What does active learning look like?
* Members of the audience are involved in more than passive listening.
* Members of the audience are engaged in activities, such as reading, discussing, and writing.
* Less emphasis is placed on information transmission
* More emphasis is placed on developing skills.
* More emphasis is placed on exploration of attitudes and values.
* Individuals receive immediate feedback from the speaker.
* Members of the audience are involved in higher order thinking, such as analysis, synthesis,
    and evaluation

* Active learning involves people in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing!

Active learning is an exciting way to teach a class. But some speakers are reluctant to try new techniques. 

Perceived Barriers to using active learning:

Can't cover as much material.
    Studies show that 8 weeks after a traditional lecture, students retain only 25% of the material. With active learning, however, individuals retain 50% of the material. Yes, it is true that it takes more time to teach the same amount of material using active learning as it does to teach that material through lecture. But, if the speaker uses active learning and covers only 50% of the subject content, students will retain 25% of the subject - the same amount as with lecture. If the speaker covers even slightly more than 50% of the subject, then more than 25% of the subject will be retained.

Takes preparation.
    Each new lesson requires preparation time whether it is traditional lecture or active learning. Once a speaker tries active learning, the techniques become second nature. 

Classes too large.
    There are successful techniques for working with classes of hundreds. The class can be divided into smaller groups with facilitators.

Lack of materials and equipment for active learning.
    Today there are many resources available for the speaker who wants to use active learning. This manual is an example!

People resist non-lecture style and won't participate.
    Experience does not show this to be true, especially with the adult learner. People appreciate being treated  like intelligent partners in the learning process.

Loss of control over class.
    After group discussions, there are ways to get the audience's attention. You may use buzzers & timers or turn lights on/off.

    Active learning is a very personal approach to teaching and quite different from formal lecture. The speaker dialogues with the audience! It is important to create a comfortable learning environment when using active learning. 

How to create a "safe" classroom for active learning:

    There are many active learning techniques. A good speaker will have several of these in
his/her educational tool box:
1.  Ask questions
        But remember to wait for the answers.
2.  Pause procedure
            Take 2 minutes and write on an index card:
        A. "What was the most important point from the last presentation, demonstration, video
                or slide show?"
        B. "What didn't you understand about the last presentation?" (You will want to collect
                these cards.)
        C. "Write an test question based on the last presentation."
3. Vote
            Make a statement, such as "Your pesticide storage facility should be locked."
            Ask who votes "yes", who votes "no." Or ask for a "thumbs up" vote if in agreement;
            "thumbs down" if against. No one can see how their neighbor is responding --
            the question is ungraded and it only takes a second to do.
4. Ungraded quizzes
            Pass out short quizzes. Review the answers. Do not collect the quizzes - let the
                audience take them home.
5. Think-pair-share
           A. Ask the audience to take notes for a short time.
                Then ask them to tell the person next to them how the information from the last
                    presentation will help them in their garden.
           B. Put members of the audience in pairs. Assign roles to each -
                 one person is a Master Gardener and the other the President of the Garden Club.
                 Ask them to, "Tell the Garden Club President how gardeners can protect the
                 environment from pesticide exposure."
6. Brainstorming
            Present a problem to the group. Ask for suggestions to solve the problem.
            Example: "What questions do you ask yourself before you can make a pesticide
            application?"  Members of the audience can write their answers on index cards.
7.  Demonstration
            A. Show a "right" pesticide storage facility and a "wrong" one.
                Ask the audience to contrast and compare the 2 rooms.
            B. Show PPE & pass around room. Dress a gardener for a specific job.
8. Multi question worksheet
                An example is found in this manual:
                "Making pesticide application decisions from the label." Distribute copies of a pesticide
                label to the audience. Have members of the audience break into small groups and
                complete the worksheet in their group.

    Complete the worksheet ACTIVE LEARNING:  YOU CAN DO IT!  to help you plan to use active learning in the classroom. Then use the lesson plan "Be safe with pesticides! Read the label."


    1.  To help the homeowner learn how to use pesticides safely in the house, garden and
            lawn by understanding the pesticide label.
    2.  to motivate homeowners to adopt safety practices.

Time required
45 minutes plus preparation time reviewing script.

Materials Needed:
    1. Name cards or badges for you and members of the audience.
    2.  Overhead projector if audience is large. Flip chart & tape if audience is small.
    3. markers
    4. 2 index cards or slips of paper for each attendee
    5. pencils and/or pens
    6. 2 jugs with make-believe pesticide label (skull and crossbones is enough)
    7.  Kitchen timer
    8. Handouts: 
  The ABC's of a Pesticide Label
  Making Pesticide Applicator Decisions from the Label
    "Put Safety into Practice" evaluation forms printed as a 3-part NCR.

Before the Meeting:
     1. Review this lesson plan.
     2. Ask your County Agent if you need more information.
     3. Prepare handouts for the participants.
     4. Make arrangements for an overhead projector or flip chart.

    1. Members of the audience solve a problem together and learn how to make decisions
                using pesticides. 

    2. The speaker describes the parts of the pesticide label and points out parts of the label
                that the audience neglected to use while making their decisions. 
    3. The speaker describes the take home activity.
    4. The speaker administers the evaluation.

Speaker's directions and script

Before the program begins
    Pass out name badges or name cards and markers. Encourage everyone to write their first
name large enough so that you can read their names from the front of the room. Don't forget your
own badge or card.

    If you are speaking as an invited speaker, your host should introduce you.  Thank the audience for inviting you to speak.  If you are conducting a Master gardener program, introduce yourself and thank the audience for attending.

Lead In (Speakers comments are in quotation marks)
    "How many of you have applied pesticides at home?"  Listen to the answers and point out
that even toilet bowl cleaner is a pesticide.
"Anything that kills or repels a pest is a pesticide."   Name some pests and their pesticides:
insects (insecticides), weeds (herbicides), plant pathogens (fungicides), snails & slugs
(molluscides), trash fish in a sporting lake (piscicides), birds (avicides), nematodes (nematicides).
(Do not say, "Herbicides and pesticides."  Herbicides ARE pesticides.)

Audience Warm-Up
    Put members of the audience into pairs. Ask them to, "Tell your partner what you grow in
your garden." Allow only 2-3 minutes, then begin the lesson. Use a kitchen timer or turn the
lights on/off when time is up.

Outline the program on the flip chart or overhead
    "Today we will:
    Have a problem solving exercise
    Review parts of the pesticide label
    Look at a take home activity and do an
    Evaluation of the program."

Problem solving exercise
    "Here is a problem for you to solve:  You are working in your yard and you see that your
favorite azalea has bugs all over it. You figure that you need to apply a pesticide. You grab
your car keys & jacket and head over to the garden store. You pull up in the parking lot, go
inside. You note that the clerk is busy and has a line waiting to talk to him. So you're on your
own. You stand in front of the shelves of pesticides. You need to decide which pesticide to
buy. How do you do this? What questions do you ask yourself to decide which pesticide to
buy?  What do you need to know before you can make a pesticide application?  Write one
question on the index cards & pass to front."

    Read some of the index cards, then list the questions on the overhead or flip chart. It is
easier to have a second person list the questions while you sort the cards and read aloud
the ones you want listed.

Typical questions:
    Will it kill the bug?
    Can I use it on azalea?
    Is it harmful to kids & pets?
    Will it hurt the environment?

    Keep saying that the questions are very good. Support the efforts of the attendees.

    Continue with the lesson. Hold up one of the make-believe pesticide jugs:  "So, we decide
which pesticide to buy, get back in the car, and drive home. Now you are home with your
pesticide.  You jump out of the car, take the pesticide container over to the azalea. But hold
everything! Wait a  minute! You need to decide how to apply this pesticide. What questions
do you ask yourself to decide how to apply this pesticide ? What do you need to know before
you can make a pesticide application?"

    "Write your questions on the index cards & pass to front."

    Read some of the index cards, then list on overhead or flip chart.

Typical questions:
    Do I have the right personal protective equipment (PPE)?
    How much do I apply?
    How do I mix it?
    When do I apply it?
    Where do I apply it?
    How do I apply it?
    When can I let kids & pets back in the area?

    Keep saying that the questions are very good. Support the efforts of the attendees.

    Continue with the lesson. Hold up one of the make-believe pesticide jugs:  "Would it
surprise you if I said that you can find all the answers to these questions on the pesticide

    "Let's set our lists of questions aside for a minute and look at the handout, 'The ABC's of a
Pesticide Label."  Put the flip chart to the side or turn off the light on the overhead projector.
Pass out the handout.

    Give the members of the audience time to look at their handout while you say, "Everything
you need to know to be safe with pesticides is on the label. Read the label 5 times:
    Before you buy the product
    before you store it
    before you mix & load
    before you apply, and again
    before you dispose of the empty container."

    "This handout lists every part of the label. I'm going to emphasize certain sections:"

Parts of the Label

C. Formulation
    "The formulation tells you what the pesticide looks like when it pours out of the jug. You
must match the formulation with your application equipment. If the formulation is a granule,
you need to use a drop spreader. If the formulation is a liquid, you need a pump-up sprayer,
hose end sprayer or other liquid sprayer. Some of your pesticides will be 'ready to use' so
you won't need equipment."

    "You must also match the formulation with the pest problem. If you have a leaf-eating
insect, a granular formulation won't help. The granules won't stick to the leaves. You need
to use a liquid or a dust that will stick to the leaves. If you are treating broadleaf weeds in
the lawn, you can use a granular formulation."

D. Type of pesticide: insecticide, herbicide, fungicide, nematacide, rodenticide, avicide.
    "You must also match the type of pesticide to the pest. Using an herbicide for our bug on
azalea won't do much good."

H. EPA numbers.
    "These numbers tell you that the product is legal. Before a company can begin to sell a
pesticide they must submit results of laboratory experiments to EPA. Once EPA has
reviewed the documents, they register (not approve) the pesticide and give it a number. If
you do not see an EPA number on a product that makes pesticidal claims (kills or repels
pests), that product is illegal."

I. Signal word
    "There are 3 signal words. These words tell you how toxic the product is to you the
applicator, not to the pest:
    Danger, the most toxic
    Warning, less toxicity
    Caution, lowest toxicity."

    "Here is a problem for you: You're trying to decide which pesticide to buy. You pick out 2
pesticides.  Both say they will do the job. One has a signal word 'Caution.' (Hold up one of
the make-believe pesticide jugs) The other is 'Danger.' (Hold up the other make-believe
pesticide jug) Which one should you use?"  Take a  Thumbs up/Thumbs down" vote & then
explain why use you should use the pesticide with a caution signal word.

    Route of entry and Specific action statements
    "This statement helps you pick PPE. There are 4 routes of entry: dermal, eyes, respiratory,
ingestion. What are the sites of greatest absorption? (Answers: Groin, face, forehead.)
If the label says, 'fatal if swallowed,' what would you do? (Answers: don't eat, smoke or drink
while handling. Use a face shield)
If the label says, 'don't breath vapors and mists,' what would you do? (Answers: use a
respirator, stay upwind)
If the label says, 'don't get on skin,' what would you do? (Answers: Use chemically resistant
gloves, fore arm protectors, aprons, tyvek suits)
If the label says, 'keep out of eyes,' what would you do? (Answers: wear goggles or face shield)."

    "PPE means Personal Protective Equipment. Look for this section on the label, but also use
the signal word, route of entry and specific action statements to help you choose PPE. The
minimum PPE is long-sleeved shirt and long-legged pants."

    "When mix/loading, the forearms get 13% of contamination from pesticide exposure. The
hands get 85%.  This adds up to 98% of exposure that could be completely avoided by
wearing rubber gloves and forearm protection."

    "The very minimum PPE is long legged pants, long sleeved shirt, non absorbent hat, gloves
and footwear."

    "What happens if you wear a baseball cap or leather work boots?" (Answer: They will
absorb pesticides and continue to contaminate you every time you wear that item.)

K. User safety recommendations
    "Sometimes even the right PPE is not enough. Don't wipe your forehead, eat, smoke, drink
while applying pesticides. Wash hands before toileting."

L. First Aid
    "You need to know first aid procedures before you have an accident. Keep a copy of the
label on a clip board in the storage/ mixing/ loading area."

M. Environmental hazards
    "Pesticides may be hazardous to water, pollinating insects, birds, other wildlife. Make sure
you plan ahead & scout the area."

N. Directions for use.
    "You will use this section a lot. It explains when -- what time of year, what time of day -- and
how you will make the application."

P. Storage and Disposal:
    "Always store pesticides in a locked, cool, dry, well ventilated, facility. The best facility has
a sealed concrete floor and stainless steel shelves."

    "For disposal of unwanted pesticides, the label will probably tell you to wrap the container
in newspaper and deposit in the trash. Your county may have a pesticide collection program.
Check with your county extension agent, state environmental protection agency, or state
department of agriculture for details."

    "For disposal of empty containers, triple rinse and take to your recycle site or sanitary land fill."

R. Mixing directions:
    "This section tells you how to mix - what solvents to use & how much."

S.Approved uses:
    "This is a very important section. Site - you can apply a pesticide only to a site listed on the
label. Here is a quick quiz:

    You have a problem with downy mildew in your roses. Here is Zappo. (Hold up one of the
make believe pesticide jugs) It says it kills downy mildew pretty well. It lists mums, azalea,
and ferns on the label. Can you use on roses?"

Take a "Thumbs up/Thumbs down" vote & then explain that the site, roses, must be on the label.

    "Pest - if the product is effective against your particular pest, it will be listed on the label.
You will also find rates and application equipment here."

Y & Z Chemical/ physical hazards:
    "Make sure there are no sparks or fire hazards. Make sure the pesticide does not get too hot or too cold."

Back to the flip chart
    After reviewing "The ABC's of a Pesticide Label," return to the flip chart or overhead
projector list. Ask the audience to help you code each item on the list using "The ABC's
of a Pesticide Label." For example, if the first question on the list is "Will it kill the bug?",
code this question "S" for Approved Uses. If the second question is "Can I use it on
azalea?", code that question "S" also. If another question is "Do I have the right personal
protective equipment (PPE)?", code that question "J". The question "How much do I
apply?", would be coded "N".

    Now review the coded list. Make another list of letters that the audience did not use. They
often forget C - formulation. Remind them to check the forgotten parts of the label the next
time they buy and use a pesticide.

Wrap up
    Wrap up your presentation with, "We've learned a lot about the different parts of the
pesticide label today and how we can use the label to help us make decisions and
practice safety. Now I will pass out the take home handout and the evaluation that were
on our agenda."

Take home activity
    Review the take home activity, "Making Pesticide Applicator Decisions from the Label."

    See the University of Delaware web page: for directions on conducting the
evaluation.  Go to Method II: Pesticide Applicator Training Evaluation Form.  Print the
evaluation form "Put Safety into Practice!" as a 3-part no-carbon-required (NCR) form.
Pass out the evaluation form. Ask the audience to write 3 pesticide safety practices
that they want to start using at home.  Each person should keep the bottom copy of their
3-part NCR and give you the top two copies. Tell them that you will send the form back
to them after they have used pesticides for a few months. Tell them that you will ask
them to check those practices that they have used at least once and those that they have
adopted as routine since training.
(1)  Extension Pesticide Coordinator, Department of Entomology and Applied Ecology, University of Delaware, Newark DE 19717-1303; (2) Extension Educator, New Castle County Cooperative Extension, 910 South Chapel St., Newark DE 19716

Bonwell, C.C. and J.A. Eison. 1991. Active Learning. Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1.

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