Often, it is not enough to simply explain to students that germs are everywhere. Because germs are so tiny and can’t be seen, children will quickly dismiss that they exist at all. To reinforce just how prevalent germs really are, try out one of the exercises below with your students. Beware though – this will also enforce in your own mind the existence of germs in your classroom – Teachnet.Com can not be held responsible for the disappearance of bottles of Purell from your local grocer’s shelves!
For a quick lesson with instant results, cover a pencil with glue, then sprinkle glitter all over the glue. Pass the pencil around the room (yes, this one’s a little messy!) and watch the glittering “germs” spread from one student to the next. If you wipe the pencil off with a paper towel, some of the germs will still remain. This is why it is important to actually WASH the pencil (and everyone’s hands) with soap and water to effectively remove the germs. You can expect at least one of your students to touch something else once they have glitter on their hands. Glitter on a desk, one their face, or in their hair is an even better example of how easy it is to spread germs.
Also, as an alternative to glitter, one T2T contributor writes: “You can simulate germs on the hands very nicely by spraying Pam on their hands then sprinkling with paprika. Have them wash them off in cold water, versus hot water and soap.” -Alice
“You can demonstrate how germs spread by using cold cooked rice. Show the children how after touching the rice it will stick to your hands and spread as they touch people or objects.” -Connie, Port Neches, Texas
Making “invisible” germs appear!
You will first need to obtain a blacklight for this demonstration. Close up the blinds in your classroom and cover and windows that might let in light from a hallway. (This will keep sunlight out when you turn off the lights later and turn on the blacklight.) Using regular chalk or colored fluorescent chalk, grate the chalk into a powder using a cheese grater. If you have a little extra cash for this project, visit your local hobby or party store for glow-in-the-dark powder. Test your “germs” to make sure they “glow” when you turn the blacklight on. Have students put the chalk on their hands, then go about their regular activities. This will give the chalk a chance to spread around the room. Another alternative would be for you to scatter chalk around the room before the students come in. Put it on desks, books, etc. Then they will spread the chalk dust without realizing it is part of the lesson. When you turn the lights out and the black light on, you will be able to see just how much these “germs” have spread!
This is a great lesson especially when you have recently overcome a wave of colds or the flu. It helps reinforce the importance of washing hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose or coughing. When you have younger children that like to chew on pencils or put their fingers in their mouths, this may also make them think twice – they never know what kind of germs they may be eating!