Bartholomay brings Mosquitos Y Yo to Global Health Tuesday

Children around a pool of water insert testing sticks to check for mosquitoes

Children in Ecuador test the water for mosquitoes in the Mosquito Y Yo program. (Photo courtesty of Walking Palms.)

With Mosquitos Y Yo, Lyric Bartholomay, a professor of pathobiological sciences, encourages children to become young scientists to learn about mosquitoes and disease. She’ll share insights from the program from at October’s Global Health Tuesday seminar at 5:00 p.m. October 29 in the Medical Sciences Center, Room 1010.

Bartholomay, one of the directors of the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease, helped develop “Mosquitoes and Me,” a program that teaches upper elementary and beginning middle school students to learn about mosquitoes with hopes that they will take their knowledge back to their families and communities. She received a 2019 Global Health Institute Seed Grant to expand the program as “Mosquitoes Y Yo” in Ecuador.

The program is different because it does not include lectures, Bartholomay says. “Teachers work with kids in an immersive experience to develop their own understanding. The (students) sort it out, and we try really hard not to answer their questions but encourage them to keep questioning.”

By discovering answers on their own, “kids own their knowledge in a totally different way and build interesting ideas,” she adds. “That feels really great.”

Bartholomay and her team developed more than 80 lessons about mosquito biology as part of a program with Iowa State University working with children in low-resource settings in Des Moines. Two years ago, Walking Palms, a non-governmental organization in Ecuador, approached her to translate the lessons into Spanish for use in a country that’s been hard hit by hurricanes, and Zika Virus and Dengue fever, both transmitted by mosquitoes. Families, students and teachers have embraced the program, and Bartholomay will use the GHI Seed Grant to formalize the collaboration, bring UW-Madison students to Ecuador to participate in Mosquitos Y Yo camps, help students in the country understand mosquitoes with culturally-sensitive lessons, formalize relationships with Ecuador’s Ministry of Health and collect concrete data on how the project makes a difference in communities.

“This could be a really powerful way for us to teach kids about mosquito control and have them be agents of social justice and public service as they help take care of their communities,” Bartholomay says. “(With the Seed Grant), hopefully, we can make it bigger and better.”