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franklin county times

Hygiene lessons taken to the classrooms

It seems that just about every restaurant these days has signs posted urging employees and patrons alike to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs and sickness.

The idea of keeping your hands clean isn’t a new concept, but it has definitely been pushed more heavily in recent years.

One place the idea is also pushed heavily is in the schools, and in home economics classrooms in particular.

At Russellville Middle School, students who are involved in the Family and Consumer Science (FACS) classes found out through a hands-on experience this past week just how important hand washing can be – not just in the kitchen, but in day-to-day activities.

Rachel Agee, the FACS instructor at RMS, said her students have recently finished up their lessons teaching them about kitchen equipment and are currently moving into lessons about kitchen safety and sanitation.

To really illustrate the point that good sanitation measures are vitally important in the classroom, Agee said she decided to utilize a program offered through 4-H and the local division of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

“I found out last year about a program that enhances the importance of hand washing called ‘Germ City,’” Agee said. “Apriell Burgess, who works for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in our area, came to our classroom and lead a class discussion on when you need to wash your hands, how to wash your hands effectively and other topics.”

Agee said the discussion was informative, but what really got her students attention was the hands-on activity Burgess did with the students.

“Mrs. Burgess came the day before to set up a really awesome tent made of metal and canvas and the inside of the tent had neon paintings of germs in a cityscape,” Agee said.

“There were black lights inside the tent that lit up the neon design inside, and the students were given a lotion to put on their hands that enhanced the ‘germs’ inside the tent.

“The students walked in a few at a time and were shocked to see their hands glowing brightly under the lights and then Mrs. Burgess shook a students hand to show how easily germs transfer.

“The students then went to wash their hands in the bathroom following the procedures they learned. The students returned and went back in the tent to see how they did. Most students got rid of most of their germs but learned that they need to focus on scrubbing their knuckles and fingernails more thoroughly.”

Agee said she can talk to her students about kitchen sanitation for three straight weeks, but really seeing how easily germs transfer was an eye-opening experience.

“Students don’t always see the importance when you tell them to wash their hands before a kitchen lab because they have been told to wash their hands since they were little.

“I wanted students to actually visually see why they need to wash their hands so thoroughly. A person can carry millions of microbes on their hands. Most are harmless, but a student can pick up some that can cause food poisoning to occur.

“If they forget to wash their hands, or don’t wash them properly, they can spread these germs to other students, or even themselves.

“The Germ City demonstration has been the best presentation I have found for my students to teach them these lessons.”