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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

the story of... washing hands

We all know just how important hand washing is these days... and this is a simple experiment that allows children to comprehend WHY washing hands is so important to keep ourselves healthy.

"Is there bacteria on hands?"

Was the shocked exclamation when I mentioned why we wash our hands before meals... or to be totally honest about the situation, after several of the children had been involved in some serious nasal exploration... (this was pre-pandemic times)

So I set up an experiment... one slice of bread that all the children got to handle without washing their hands... and then a control slice that I put in a sealed bag after the children saw me wash and disinfect my hands and also touching the bread as little as possible...

The bags were marked "with hands" and  "without hands" - and taped to the window. Of course with it being winter the window was acting as a fridge... so nothing much was happening... so I moved them to an internal window so that the chill factor would cease to slow things down... it then took 24 hrs for mould to appear on the handled bread...

Not much... but enough to see the difference... After the weekend the was a clear difference between the breads.. neither looked appetising, but especially not the one handled by their unwashed hands, despite the fact the children thought they looked clean.

We also looked at images of bacteria and virus under the microscope... choosing ones that the children had succumbed to recently like tummy bugs, colds and ear infections... (and today I would have included Covid-19)

We talked about how the white blood cells were heroes and were fighting off the virus/bacteria and that fever, and pain were all part of the battle to get rid of the virus/bacteria that did not belong there...

It was an interesting dialogue that had all the children totally fascinated... me too! It allowed the children to better understand how their bodies worked when they were sick, and also To do this experiment in places where things are NOT to be shared then each child could have a half slice of bread that is handled and placed in a small clear bag. And one piece of unhandled bread. Or the one slice could be past around... and after touching the children go directly to wash their hands (this would work in settings where shared toys are allowed). I know that after this experiment the children actually fully understood why hand-washing is important, and not simply something that adults are making them do. This, I feel is important, children need to be able to understand why they do these routines, like washing hands, so that they can take responsibility for their own hand-washing and health

after 24 hours at room temperature (and not the chill of a winter window when it was below zero outside). Here you can see a small amount of mould on the left slice handled by the children. This was on the Friday.

On Monday we returned to the bread looking like this... and it had the desired effect... the children thought it was disgusting, and decided hand washing was a very good idea. we did not open the bags, but simply discarded them.

As a 20 year old I lived in a room as a student that I discovered, after getting very sick and hospitalised, was filled with mould that the owners had used paint to hide. I obviously moved from there, but it took 6 months for my kidneys and liver to fully recover. So I am rather over cautious when it comes to mould.

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