It's that wonderful time of year when snow covers the landscape and germs cover everything else. In order to curtail sniffles, sneezles, and other winter diseasles, we had a special lesson about germs and hygiene at our after school program. The students were quick to demonstrate proper sneeze and cough covering technique (into the bend of the arm, not the hands), but were duped by germ trivia.
Q: Which has more germs, a toilet seat or a doorknob?
A: a doorknob!
The ALEC students were appalled! It's gross! Everyone touches doorknobs!
The kids were quick to name other things that a lot of hands touch. They were coming to understand just how easily germs can spread.
To illustrate this point, I had the students pass around a slice of bread. After everybody touched it, it was sealed in a bag labelled "dirty" and all the students sanitized their hands. Then, a new slice of bread was passed around, touching everybody's now clean hands. This slice was closed up in another bag and labelled "clean".
For over a week, we watched with anticipation. When would a change show? Finally, some mold began to show after a weekend break. The "dirty" slice was much worse off than the "clean" slice seen above.
In order to halt the spread of germs and disease, people need to wash their hands. To teach proper hand washing technique, three brave volunteers got their hands dirty to show the group. The concoction may have looked disgusting, but as the students noted, it smelled pretty nice!
The pretend 'germs' mixture was a teaspoon of cooking oil, a pinch of sugar, and a drop of vanilla extract. The volunteers spread the slimy, gritty grossness all over their hands and showed the group.
When the groups was sufficiently creeped out, the hand washing volunteers trooped off to the sink for a demonstration.
With warm water, soap, and 'germy' hands ready, the only missing piece was the timing. To effectively wash your hands, you should take at least 20 seconds to clean them in the water. The group kept time for our hand washers by singing the ABCs, though two verses of "Row Row Row Your Boat" will work, too.
Washing your hands and sanitizing commonly-touched surfaces should become a more regular part of daily routine. Encouraging others to practice this basic hygiene will help to keep everyone healthier this season.