The school situation has gone through many iterations since the last update about my so-called teacher chronicles. I did my best to commit Thursday mornings to co-teaching at pa’s school during the weekly periods dedicated to English for fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. It did not last long. Between my co-teachers’ lack of interest in supplementing the dull state-curriculum with educational games (or literally anything besides rote memorization) compounded with a chronic lack of books and supplies in the first place, I finally put my foot down. To let that small endeavor go was a relief and a half which allowed me to better focus on goings-on at the health center. One thing about school has stuck, though, mostly because the kids have always been interested: hand-washing with soap (HWWS). One goal within the framework assigned to us by the Cambodian Ministry of Health is to increase the “number people who can identify 3 or more critical times when they must wash their hands.” Simple enough, it would seem, but if you don’t believe in germs it’s likely that you are also lacking an impetus to wash after the typical icky times. It takes a lot of scaffolding to get a new urge like that to stick, concepts like what germs are, where they live, etc. It’s something like inception, DiCaprio-style. Between my final solo-health club lessons at the primary school and some structured weekly time with (my blessed tutor) Leakhana’s kindergarten class, we’ve had three HWWS and germ activities that have been killer. Wait, no, the opposite. Life-saving. We’re maybe saving lives, probably.
Germs! Are! Everywhere!
Materials: 1 small sheet of paper per student, 1 pencil per student, Crayons, Scissors, Tape torn into a million tiny pieces, Soap (2-3 bars depending on class size), Large basin w/ water and buoy (If running water unavailable)
Back when I was flying solo in my health club/ glorified daycare days, I asked the kids, “Why do we get sick?” as a preface to a mini lesson about germs, e.g. tiny animals, too small to see, they live everywhere, when they get inside our bodies they make us sick, especially germs from specific dirty places like feces and other sick individuals. As I chattered, I let the kids draw their own imagined germs. It took a lot of encouragement for them to draw something so abstract, so I gave a few example critters on the board. It was a health lesson, not an art class, after all. They eventually caught on and each kid drew about 7-10 germs each and colored them in, taking pride in their especially gross ones.
When I asked where their different germs came from and they would tell me cow poop! rotten rice! my brother! my grandma! The following week I brought their germs – each individually cut out – and asked them how they thought their germs could get from their dirty origins to the inside of our bodies. When they admitted that they were stumped, I distributed the germs, about 5-6 per kiddo. I explained that the germs they were holding represented the germs they had on their hands right now, even though they couldn’t see them, and that when they touched something or someone, those germs would stick there. To demonstrate just that, we ran around the room and stuck our germs on every surface we touched, making sure to stick to the things we touch most often like our clothes and pencils and faces. Afterwards, we couldn’t spot a single place without a germ waiting to make us feel icky.
To show how other people’s germs end up on us, we did everything in reverse: running around collecting the germs from everything we touched.
Once everyone’s hands and faces were thoroughly germed, we talked about what would happen if we used those dirty hands to eat or accidentally touched our face. Everyone’s bottom lines included diarrhea and stomach ache. Bingo. I asked what they thought we should do to get rid of all the germs before they managed to get inside of us? Wash hands with soap, idiot teacher. And that we did.
No Fly Zone
Materials: Model fly (can be made out of crushed paper, black plastic bag, and tape) Baby powder or crushed chalk in a small dish, Model plate of food (i.e. rice), Soap, Water basin and buoy (if running water is unavailable)
Given that most of these kiddos were the same kiddos from my previous germ lesson, I started with a quick review about the nasty buggers. Then, I introduced the fly and asked amid giggles where flies like to land. Animals were listed along with garbage, poop, and finally rice. I whipped out the dish of powder and explained that it represented the germs that live in all the dirty places we just listed and then asked the kids to list the places that germs like to land once more. Every time they listed a place I dipped the fly in the powder, explaining that the germs from the filthy places were sticking to the fly. Here the lesson can be combined with an English lesson about prepositions i.e. “the germs are around, into, beside, above, within the food.” One little volunteer after another came up to demonstrate how the germs then transferred from the fly to the rice. Once the rice and table were fully chalky, I walked around and dabbed everyone’s hands with the powdery fly. I asked them to come up with solutions for when flies want to land on our food and if they land on our hands. Cover our food when we’re not eating it, you fool American woman, and wash our hands with soap.
Germs Hate Soap
Leakhana and I met before class to ensure we had all the proper supplies and had our game-plan down.
Materials: Small dish of baby powder or crushed chalk, Coffee grounds, Large bowl of water, Bottle or two of water, Soap Basin of water with buoy (if running water unavailable)
To begin, I drew some germs on the board while Leakhana probed for existent germ-smarts and gave them a bit of a review.
She ran them through of all our supplies to quell their excitement. We then poured some of the baby powder into a small dish and placed it in the seat of a chair with our “dirty places” sketches taped to the back. Leakhana explained that the powder represented all the dangerous germs which live in the dirty things and places depicted.
In orderly lines (*jokes*) the kids came up to dip their hands in the powder, pretending they were touching one of the unsanitary places or things depicted which would make their hands invisibly dirtied, but this activity let them see the filthiness plain as day. They lined the wall with their dirty hands and giggled.
Leakhana explained that germs from other people transfer to us the same way that the powder would. And with that we let them powder each other up.
Once everyone was back in their seats, we asked if they would eat with their dirty hands or touch the faces of someone else in their family! Obviously not, teacher. When asked how to get their hands clean they knew they needed to wash their hands, but when Leakhana asked if water alone – like rain or pond water – would clean them up, many either puzzled quietly or said yes. This set us up for the next bit. In the front of the room we set up a large bowl with water and sprinkled it with coffee grounds, explaining that the grounds represented germs in rain or pond water just like the powder had represented germs. To demonstrate that water also has germs we can’t see which dirty our hands when we wash with it, I dipped in my hands which coated them in coffee then raised them for all to see.
After a quick rinse outside using the bottled water, I stepped back in to re-coat my hands, this time with soap. Once they had seen my hands lathered in soap, then slowly dipped them in and out of the coffee water. The detergent nature of soap disrupts the water’s surface tension such that the grounds are expelled and don’t stick. As I showed them my magically clean hands, Leakhana explained that germs hate soap so much that they don’t dare touch soapy hands.
Leakhana distributed our two dozen tiny pieces of soap to all the kids. We capped it all off by letting the kids go out and hand-wash in small groups. It was a lesson plan miracle.
Grampa, I hope this was both educational and a little silly. Remember when Grant would excuse himself from dinner three or four times in one meal to wash his hands between bites? What a model kid he was.
Love you all the time,