Back-to-School Germ Safety
By Olya Fessard
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a world-renowned expert on infectious diseases warned us to not be dismissive about Covid-19. “It’s far from over . . . , he said mid-June. This virus spreads very efficiently, so if you are waiting for it to all of a sudden disappear on its own without you doing anything, I think you are going to have a long wait.”
Considering the unheeded warnings to keep stringent social distancing measures in place, what better time to teach your children about germs? This exercise can serve as a science lesson while helping ease kids’ anxiety through gaining self-empowering knowledge and having them feel capable of utilizing proactive hygiene measures.
PBS.org recommends providing your children with age-appropriate information about the disease, reassuring kids that they are safe, and promoting the message that many people are working to keep us healthy. Teach kids how to take reasonable hygiene precautions to prevent the spread of disease. In fact, Dr. Fauci continues to caution:
• STAY home as much as you can.
• SOCIAL DISTANCING six to ten feet. The most important practice if you must go out.
• MASK if you must go out.
• WASH hands often.
• COVER your cough.
• SICK? Call ahead.
About the Disease
Learning about COVID-19 can help allay fears children may have about the disease. KidsHealth.org recommends first asking what your children already know about the disease. If your kids don’t seem interested in talking about the issue, that’s OK. If they do want to talk, answer any questions they have honestly, and if you don’t know the answer, be honest about that, too. Speak calmly and be reassuring.
If your children are getting information from questionable sources, such as sensationalized websites or click-bait headlines, talk to them about evaluating their sources of information. Offer appropriate sources of information for children, such as the CNN 10 news show (cnn.com/cnn10), Student News Daily (studentnewsdaily.com) or PBS NewsHour Extra (pbs.org/newshour/extra). Use the Center for Disease Control (CDC) videos: cdc.gov/handwashing/videos.html to ensure your kids know what handwashing actually means. You can always rely on CDC and National Institutes of Health (NIH) websites for Covid details.
An awesome guide for teaching about germs can be found at kidshealth.org/classroom/3to5/personal/hygiene/germs.pdf which includes the following lessons for kids. Just follow the links below. It also offers discussion questions and activities for kids during the course:
What Are Germs?
Why Do I Need to Wash My Hands Often?
The 5-Second Rule
Checking Out Cuts, Scratches, and Abrasions
Your Immune System
Check in with your children often to see what new information they’ve been taking in about the disease, so you can answer any new questions they might have. Be sure they are not obsessing and constantly taking in information about the pandemic.
Be sure children know how to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19 in both adults and children (fever, cough, shortness of breath, unexplained rash, and in some cases, flu-like symptoms), so they can report them to you if they experience them or have been exposed to another individual who displayed those symptoms.
Educating children about their role in preventing spread of disease helps them feel in control of some part of the situation. Talk about the things they can actually control: the importance of proper handwashing, sneezing or coughing into their elbow, social distancing of a minimum of six feet (and what that looks like to very young children), and not touching their faces.
Teeangers are old enough to have a more adult conversation about their role in preventing the spread of the disease and take in media about the toll the disease is taking in their community, nation, and world at large.
Teach a Lesson
If you’re homeschooling, consider doing a unit about viruses, including COVID-19. BrainPop’s animated explanation of the virus is a good place to start. It’s part of an entire lesson on viruses, including quizzes, worksheets, recommended reading, a graphic organizer and related games. See the lesson at https://bit.ly/3af5pvT.
German science content provider Kurzgesagt: In a Nutshell, also offers a kid-appropriate explainer of the disease. Watch it at https://bit.ly/2vP37oA.
The National Science Teaching Association offers a list of resources for teaching about coronavirus at https://bit.ly/39aB3JX. #