Clean Hands Up!
New Program Teaches Youngsters Proper Hand Washing Techniques
The kindergarten and first grade students at Jeffersontown Elementary have a lot to learn during the early years of their education. They’re instructed on reading, which includes letter-sound correspondence, phonemic awareness and sight words. Then there’s math, which involves number recognition, place value, addition and subtraction. Plus, there’s a whole host of other subjects they learn about throughout the day.
Thanks to a new program called Clean Hands Up!, last fall these young scholars were introduced to a new subject – the importance of proper hygiene. Teen instructors from Jeffersontown High School were their teachers for a day, and their goal was to show the five- and six-year-olds how to wash their hands the right way.
This class might seem a bit curious, especially since children are constantly told by their parents to wash their hands before eating, and after playing outside or using the restroom. If so, then why would these teen instructors need to teach it again? It comes down to this – children, as well as adults, may not be washing their hands correctly, or often enough. There’s more to hand washing than just quickly spritzing on some soap and water for a couple of seconds. Proper hand washing can keep you healthy.
According to pediatrician Dr. Sayeed Khan with Norton Children Medical Associates-Fern Creek, hand washing is the best way to stop transmission of infectious organisms through contact such as handshakes and high-fives.
“With proper hand hygiene, we can prevent potentially serious illnesses,” he says.
What can we transmit if we don’t wash our hands thoroughly, and on a regular basis?
“Many types of infectious organisms, including bacteria and viruses, can be spread through our hands,” Khan says. “We often end up touching our mouths, noses and eyes throughout the day without having washed our hands first.”
Khan explains that this practice can lead to contracting and spreading illnesses like the flu, respiratory syncytial virus, colds, E. coli and more.
“A lot of germs spread through the fecal-oral route, which means germs can be spread to nearby objects or food if we don’t wash our hands after going to the bathroom,” Khan says.
The teen mentors involved with this initiative are part of the Business and Health Science Academy in the Allied Health program at Jeffersontown High School. Academy Coach Ashley Conway explains that students who follow this pathway study e-commerce, marketing, allied health, patient care tech and pre-nursing. The high school has two medical professionals, Miechelle Abma, RN BSN, and Michelle O’Brien, RN BSN, who teach medical and health classes.
“The students are learning from the experts in their field,” Conway says. “It’s an awesome opportunity for the kids. Ms. Abma was the one to bring the hand-washing idea to our students.”
Abma is a registered nurse with experience working in the neonatal intensive care unit at Norton Hospital. She also taught at Brown Mackie College in the licensed nursing program. She has been teaching in the health science pathway for Jefferson County public schools for 10 years. O’Brien works for VNA Home Health in addition to instructing at the high school.
The teachers and high school leaders work with the Louisville Water Company (LWC) to implement the program. Channa Newman, manager of education and outreach for LWC, says high school students are instructed on how to present the Clean Hands Up! program before working with the younger children.
“We provide them with a kit filled with supplies to take out to the community,” she says.
This kit contains germ models, mock-germ lotion that contains green, washable paint that glows under a black light, as well as black lights and activity sheets.
“Once the high school students’ teachers are confident that they know the materials, we then reach out to elementary schools in their high school area to schedule lessons,” Newman says. “They work in teams at the elementary schools to teach the proper times and techniques to wash hands.”
One of the students involved with the hand washing program is high school junior Mikayla Dailey. Dailey is part of the Health and Business pathway, and she’s focusing mainly on courses geared towards the health and medical fields.
“I chose this pathway because I’m very interested in nursing and pediatrics, and hope to go into the medical field when I graduate,” Dailey says.
Dailey enjoyed working with the elementary children because it gave her and others in the program a greater understanding of the teaching process, and how to instruct younger students on proper hand washing.
“In our presentation we use the glow-in-the-dark lotion that has germs in it,” Dailey says. “The kids rub on the lotion and then we shine a black light on their hands to show them where the germs are and what they look like. Next, we teach them how to properly wash their hands with a 10-step count: 1-2, palms together, 3-4, in between your fingers, 5-6, scrub your nails, 7, one thumb, 8, other thumb, 9-10, back of your hands.”
Once they’ve gone over the steps, the student instructors have the children put their skills to the test and ask them to wash their hands with soap using the 10-count process. They once again shine the black light on their hands to see how effective they were in washing properly.
Brooke Schilling, principal at Jeffersontown Elementary School, is thrilled with the program on many levels.
“We did this last year as well, so this is our second year partnering up with the hand washing classes,” she says. “J-Town is a very tight-knit community, so any time we have a chance to collaborate with schools or local businesses, it just speaks volumes about the area we live in. We’re also pleased that we can be part of this program, especially during this time of year with so many germs floating around. It’s a healthy way to be preventative and to protect ourselves, especially in the elementary school.”
Schilling says both age groups gained something from the experience.
“The elementary kids absolutely loved it, but it was also great to have the high school kids at our school because many of them attended J-Town Elementary,” she says. “It’s neat for us to see how much they’ve grown, and we appreciate how they’re giving back to the school they once attended.”
To find out more about proper hand washing and how it can save lives, explore cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html.
For information on the Louisville Water Company’s Clean Hands Up! program, go to louisvillewater.com/newsroom/students-put-clean-hands.