Swine Flu Experiment for Teachers

Question: I am a teacher and I am trying not to overreact to the Sine Flu, but I kind of am already overreacting. I must tell you I am afraid of what this will mean for my students. I teach Second grade. Our district has it on the agenda for teaching training before school starts. How am I going to teach second graders about what we need to do without scaring them? I always teach hygiene, but this year there is another layer. What is overreacting and what is normal?

Answer: I have an experiment I plan to do with my First Grade students to help them understand how and why we wash our hands. All you need is pepper, water, and a bar of soap, so the ingredients are affordable and easy to gather. Fill a bowl with water and sprinkle the pepper on the surface of the water. Put soap on your finger and dip it into the bowl. Your students will see the soap repel the pepper. It is pretty neat for such a simple experiment. It looks like the pepper explodes out. Then talk to your students about how some students use only water to wash their hands, but this does not work. We need soap to repel the germs. It makes the lesson meaningful for them. This is a great segue into a lesson on hygiene and keeping ourselves clean.
All any of us have to do is watch the news to get a little frightened of the flu season this year. I sought help from a doctor to properly answer your question. Dr. Erika Schwartz, Medical Director of Cinergy Health, gave me a list of things we can do as teachers and even added a few tips on what would be considered overreacting. Here are some of her guidelines:
• Teach students to wash hands throughout the day.
• Keep anti-bacterial pumps accessible. Explain when it is appropriate to use them.
• Remind the students not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth with their hands.
• Explain to students the importance of getting at least 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
• Teach your students to eat three full meals and several snacks a day which are balanced complex carbohydrates, protein and are chock full of fruit and vegetables. Stay away from pre-prepared, high sugar, soda and preserved foods.
• Keep children hydrated. Kids should be drinking 4-6 glasses of water a day.
• Dissuade children from sharing cups, straws and bottles
• Make sure the children are getting sufficient exercise. Children should be doing aerobic activity at least 5 days a week during recess, gym class or after-school sports.
• Don't send sick children to school; likewise, send them home if they get sick at school.
• Send a "Flu Prevention Tips" letter home with students. The same tips should be practiced at home to assure a healthy school year.
• If you notice a child with the beginning symptoms of a flu or cold, let their parents know immediately. Helping prevent the flu or cold developing with vitamin C, hydration, rest and chicken soup is critical.
• How to NOT go “over board” with Swine Flu Prevention:
o There is no need to frighten the children by wearing a mask or using gloves. If they see their teacher being hysterical or nervous they will imitate and results will be counter-productive.
o There is no reason to explain in detail the symptoms or effects of the flu to children. Younger children will not understand and adolescents will get scared. Teaching them to maintain healthy lifestyles is all they need to learn from you.
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