This lesson helps young people understand the importance of hand-washing by showing them firsthand how everyday germs start out invisible, but when left unattended grow into something very unappealing. They will review proper hand-washing techniques.
Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about hand-washing. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.
Hand-washing is easy to do. It’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of germs in all settings—from your home and workplace to schools and more. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another.
When should we wash our hands? You should always wash your hands:
- before, during, and after preparing food
- before and after eating food
- before and after caring for someone who is sick
- after using the toilet
- after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- after touching an animal
- after touching garbage
- any time they feel or look dirty.
It seems simple and obvious that it’s important, but according to the American Society of Microbiology, 96 percent of people say that they wash their hands after using a public restroom, but during observations conducted as part of a study, only 93 percent of females and 77 percent of males actually do.
Fifty percent of young people in middle and high school wash their hands, and of these, only 33 percent of females and eight percent of males use soap. That makes it even more important to wash hands since so many of the same people are touching door handles, tabletops, computer keyboards and so many other things every day.
- Show the video Put Your Hands Together by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The video is 3 minutes and 40 seconds long.)
- Review the steps covered in the video and the simple directions below for proper hand-washing.
- Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold). Apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather. Scrub them well. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or paper towel. You can also let your hands air dry.
- If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but they do not remove soil and other substances and do not eliminate all types of germs.
- Also, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not good at removing elements of food for those who suffer from food allergies. A child or adult with a severe food allergy could have a reaction if someone else near them has not washed their hands with soap and water and comes in contact with that person.
- Remind young people that good hand-washing is one sure way to keep you and others in good health!
Activity: A Slice with Germs
- Ask young people to touch their faces, hair, desk or other object to get their hands dirty.
- Give each young person a slice (whole or half) of preservative-free, fresh bakery bread and tell them to touch it all over, keeping it flat.
- Have young people place the slice of bread in bag with two small drops of water. Seal the bag shut.
- Label the bag with the young person’s name and date.
- Put all the bread slices in a brown grocery bag. Include one piece of bread in a bag that was untouched.
- Seal the grocery bag shut. Place in warm spot.
- Each day, have the youth open the brown grocery bag and observe the bread for any changes. Typically it takes about five days to two weeks for good mold growth.
- Explain to the youth that the mold is from the germs they had on their hands. Even though we can’t see these germs, they are there. These germs can spread easily and cause us to become sick.
- Hand-washing is the simple most effective way to reduce the number of germs on our hands!
Remind young people that hand-washing is the simple and effective way to reduce the number of germs on our hands. Picture the mold your germs grew on the bread to remember how important it is to wash your hands throughout the day!
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing good hand-washing habits at home.
Related Health Powered Kids Blog
Practicing good hand-washing techniques will help keep germs away
Additional Instructor Resources
Infection Prevention: Hand Washing video