Tift County parents may notice their children are putting more time and effort into washing their hands. The newly-adopted improved hand-washing techniques are thanks to University of Georgia Extension and the “birthday song.”
Last school year more than 1,700 first and second grade students participated in hand-washing seminars led by Roxie Price, a Tift County Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agent. She uses the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to teach the classes and has high hopes for how the seminars will impact the schools.
“The kids don’t miss as many days of school; therefore, their learning is not getting impaired,” Price said.
She says the seminars benefit the schools and parents financially, too. Children are less likely to become sick, therefore, not requiring medicines and parents don’t have to miss work because their child is ill.
Each seminar begins with a test of the children’s confidence in their current hand washing routines. The children are asked to rub on white lotion and place their hands under a black light. The glowing lotion is referred to as “germs,” which makes the children eager to wash their hands.
When the children return from washing their hands, they place their hands under the black light again to see if any “germs” remain. “It’s a really neat technique to show where you may be missing when you’re scrubbing your hands,” Price said.
Children do not seem to lose interest once the seminar is over, either. They continue to remind each other of the proper procedure throughout the school year in what Price refers to as a “group mentality.”
So what is this effective hand washing procedure?
According to the CDC, you should: wet hands, run clean, warm water over hands, apply soap, lather hands by rubbing them together and in between fingers, scrub hands for at least 20 seconds and rinse and dry with a disposable towel.
Many people make the mistake of assuming the entire process should take 20 seconds. The CDC guidelines state the scrubbing process alone should take 20 seconds. This is where the “Happy Birthday” song comes into play. Singing the song helps children who find counting to 20 boring.
The seminars also inform children of where they are likely to obtain germs, such as when they play with each other’s hair, run their hands down the walls of the hallways and eat with their hands.
“They are constantly touching the world around them,” said Jana Cromer, a teacher at Len Lastinger Primary School. “I think it’s important to make them aware of germs and how easily germs can be spread.”
Price currently teaches her hand-washing seminars to only first graders.
Parents may also find their children are turning down sugary beverages.
Price has just begun a separate seminar to teach second graders about hidden sugars that may be going into their bodies. For example, children are shown a glass of soda or tea followed by the equivalent amount of vacuum packed sugar.
The mass of bare sugar is even enough to make an eight-year-old cringe at what they may be eating or drinking.
Cromer has already noted a spark of nutritional interest amongst her second grade students during snack time. “Several of the children were asking to read the backs of the boxes to see what the sugar content was,” she said.
Price hopes the seminars will make a difference in the current epidemic of childhood obesity. “Just by letting them know where they may be getting some of these extra calories and sugars, the impact is huge,” Price said.