Beyond this point there be…Pirates?
MASOT’s Education and Outreach Committee launches its new program, “Escape from Toxic Island”
Diane Hardej, Chair, MASOT Education and Outreach Committee
Teaching kids new concepts through the use of board games is hardly a new idea. Throw in a tropical island theme complete with tiki torches, grass skirts, and a crusty pirate and the learning becomes absolutely enjoyable! This was the idea of the MASOT Education and Outreach Committee’s newest innovative educational program called "Escape from Toxic Island."
This program was first developed for a St. John’s University-sponsored Health Fair in May of 2012. The original program contained two informational posters and a game board. Children at MS 72, Catherine and Count Basie Middle School, visited the posters where they learned basic concepts of toxicology and safety in the home. Following this brief instruction, they played the board game using the posters to help answer the questions. The first player to answer the questions correctly and progress on the game board to the end “escaped” from Toxic Island. It was such a big hit at the fair that the committee was approached about playing the game this summer in place of its popular program Inspector Tox.
For the past 2 years, the committee and volunteers has successfully presented Inspector Tox to the delight of the campers in the After School All Stars program. St. John’s acts as one of the host campuses for this program that serves minority children in low income and high risk areas. In order to accommodate the larger audience of the All Stars program, 6 sets of game board and informational posters were produced. Toxic Island premiered on Thursday, August 16, 2012, on the Queens campus of St. John’s University. Tony Schatz, our original Inspector Tox, took on the new role of Captain Tox, a crusty pirate. Some tropical props were thrown in to make game play more fun. Some of our volunteers wore grass skirts and tropical shirts and battery operated tiki torches flanked the entrance to classrooms featuring the game. The children were given flower leis on arrival to Toxic Island. A stadium cup stating “I escaped from Toxic Island” containing booklets provided by the New York City (NYC) Poison Control Center was given to each camper as they left.
Dr. Schatz was a natural as Captain Tox as he moved from game to game quizzing the kids on toxicology concepts and “walking the plank” was never done with so much joy! (watch the clip of Tony in action). Approximately 140 children answered questions ranging from the dangers of natural toxins to the role of government agencies in regulating toxic substances.
Many thanks go out to all of the people who made this program possible. MASOT’s Outreach and Education Committee reviewed and approved all materials for this event. Our 17 dedicated volunteers were composed of members of MASOT’s Outreach and Education Committee and St. John’s University graduate and undergraduate toxicology students and faculty. St. John’s University, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences), graciously provided our volunteers with breakfast and lunch. Many thanks to them for their continued support! The All Stars program has provided us with a great venue and audience for three years. We couldn’t do it without their help. Thanks to their Director, Alan Fields, and program coordinator, Eric Stoddard, for all their help in coordinating this event.
Thanks to Suzette Weiss of St. John’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences for keeping us fed and hydrated during the show and to Maria Mercurio Zappala of the NYC Poison Control Center for her generous supply of booklets that get us through all our toxicology-related programs.
Finally, thanks to all our dedicated and hardworking volunteers: Kinga Adamas, Kristen Brocavich, Valentina DiGangi, Lauren Dire, Brittany Elkin, Amiann Forino, Sue Ford, Lisa Hoffman, Daniel Incalcaterra, Puneet Vij, Benjamin Kistinger, Hoi Ki Lau, Jessica Placido, Tony Schatz, Samantha Sforza, and Ummea Urmi. I think it’s fair to say that they went home with a real sense of accomplishment at the end of an exhausting, but fun, day!
Captain Tox, Tony Schatz, in front of the informational posters and Toxic Island game board.
Committee member Lisa Hoffman, and undergraduate Lauren Dire assist Captain Tox during game play.
Captain Tox oversees Toxic Island game while undergraduate tox student Daniel Incalcaterra and All Stars staff member look on.
Most of the Toxic Island cast and crew as they stop for lunch and a group photo.
Diane Hardej at the entrance to Toxic Island.