CARTERS VALLEY — It’s not easy to concern children about something they can’t see, which is why every student at Carters Valley Elementary School received an invitation Monday to visit “Germ City.”
Monday was Health Awareness Day at the K-5 CVES, with various demonstrations including a visit from the Church Hill EMS and Rescue Squad, a visit from a nurse practitioner to talk to students about what to expect during doctor visits, and a nutrition program sponsored by the school system’s Family Resource Center.
The program that provided students the most “hands on” experience, however, was “Germ City” — a traveling exhibit sponsored by the University of Tennessee’s Nutrition and Consumer Education Program.
“It teaches kids how important it is to wash their hands,” said program assistant Maria McReynolds.
A lotion was rubbed on students’ hands that glows under the black lights in the Germ City tent. That glow demonstrates for children what germs on their hands would look like if they were visible to the naked eye.
Students are then given the task of washing their hands and removing all the “germs.”
“Then they go back through (the Germ City black lights) to see if they washed their hands properly,” McReynolds said.
Prior to the Germ City demonstration, students received a brief tutorial on the importance of washing hands by program coordinator Amy Lipe. Lipe explained to students that aside from regular germs including the flu, now they need to be concerned about the H1N1 virus.
Lipe told students that regular hand washing is the best way to protect themselves from the virus, which can cause terrible illness.
After seeing their glowing hands, each student washed their hands at a sink and then returned to the black lights to see if there was any glowing lotion remaining.
Lipe said about 75 percent of students at Carters Valley had fully cleaned their hands on the first try, although those numbers weren’t as good at some of the other schools in the region that the program has visited.
“We’ve been to some schools where they go through and it doesn’t even look like they’ve washed their hands...” Lipe said. “It’s kind of an eye opener for them to see that even after they washed their hands, the black light showed the places they had missed. Hopefully they’re learning that there’s more to hand washing than just running water over them.”
Lipe told students that a good hand washing should take about 20 seconds, or about the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” or their “ABCs.”
The most common areas missed were the thumbs, fingernails and around the wrists.
CVES Principal Lisa Webb provided a good example for students, thoroughly removing the glowing lotion on the first wash. The Times-News reporter in attendance was less successful, leaving some glowing lotion in his cuticles after the first try.
Even some teachers had trouble getting it right the first time, however.
Webb said Monday’s events are intended not only to teach children good practices, but to instill in them the importance of incorporating those good practices into their everyday routines.