A book created to actually show young school children the bacteria which lurks on their hands is helping to visually reinforce the important hygiene message of handwashing.
The book, A Germ’s Journey, is the brainchild of microbiologist Dr Katie Laird and education expert Dr Sarah Younie of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU). As parents themselves they knew the importanceof handwashing in preventing disease and communicating it at a young age.
Aimed at children aged three to five, A Germ’s Journeyincludes illustrations which feature special thermochromic black paint. Once the child’s hand is placed upon the paint, the microbes present appear on the hands in the book and the black paint vanishes.
Dr Laird, Head of DMU’s Infectious Disease Research Group, said the idea was to introduce the concept of the ‘invisible germ’ to youngsters. She said: “Often children cannot understand that there are germs on their hands because they cannot see them.
“Working through the book they can see the germs appear and it allows teachers, parents and carers to have the conversation around handwashing. It also demonstrates clean hands after washing hands. At the back of the book is information for teachers on how to interact with the book and teach pupils about germs.”
The project was funded by the Society of Applied Microbiology and the book has now been taken on by Medina Publishing Ltd, while a website with games, downloads and tips for parents and teachers has been created too. All of the educational resources are free at the point of access.
Copies of the book have been distributed to preschools and nurseries, toddler stay and play groups and internationally, via a charity in Kenya, and Dr Laird and Dr Younie have also partnered with teachers in India and Sierra Leone to co-create culturally relevant books for their regions.
Most recently, they teamed up with Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum to provide educational resources that teach children the importance of handwashing. A Germ’s Journey forms part of the museum’s new MiniBrum gallery; a child-sized world designed for youngsters to explore their understanding of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through different role-play zones.
Working with the DMU researchers, the Thinktank team co-ordinated and organised the creation of a handwashing song with children from Benson Community School in Birmingham and musicians from Bridge Arts and Music that will be played in the MiniBrum toilets for children to join in with.
The museum will also incorporate A Germ’s Journey games and activities throughout the exhibition and offer health hygiene workshops for schoolchildren as part of its educational programme.
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