In light of the recent flu outbreak, this presentation came at a most opportune time. It was, Collins and Counselor Kim Sample said, pure coincidence, as the program had been scheduled for nearly a year.
Germ City is an interactive, walk-through exhibit that is coupled with a brief oral presentation regarding proper hand washing techniques and making the students aware of the ways in which germs spread. Collins also made students aware of food bourne illnesses and their origins.
Following the educational presentation, Mrs. Nicolson's fifth grade class was given a type of glow in the dark hand washing gel and instructed to go to the restroom and wash their hands in the manner in which they were shown during the demonstration. Students were told to take special care not to touch anything prior to going through the Germ City tent.
Housed in the black tent-like structure is four black lights as well as various creepy crawly "germs" hanging from the ceiling. The students enter the front and are able to see if they washed their hands well by seeing if there is anything glowing on their hands. From the sounds of most of the children, there were definitely germs on their hands.
This exhibit is a part of the Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program and is used to teach children about food safety and hand washing techniques.
Collins also told the children that 90 percent of food bourne illnesses are caused by contamination. Many of these illnesses are caused by a virus because of germs and can be avoided by proper hand washing and preparation and storage techniques.
In addition to Collins' presentation, Highland Middle School nurse Nancy French spoke to the children about staph. She also reiterated Collins' discussion about hand washing and told the children to keep their hands off their faces and out of their mouths due to germs spreading.
By allowing the students to visualize the portions of their hands that weren't correctly washed with the black light exhibit, children can pay closer attention to their hand washing.
Collins told the children to wash for at least 20 seconds under warm water, paying close attention to the nail area and between fingers. She told them that warm soapy water was more effective than hand sanitizer.
The students were provided with handouts that included the techniques they had learned at the presentation as well as food and lunch box tips to avoid bacteria that causes illness.
Collins said to inquire about the possibility of having the Germ City Exhibit at their school or event, contact the Sharp County Extension Office.