How to Teach Children about Germs & Viruses

I think we can agree that it’s a bit of a confusing time at the moment – especially for children. Their schools have been shut, their friends have been social distancing and face masks are the new norm. All of this change has been due to a virus.
With more information available about the effects of viruses and how to stay safe – the easiest way to keep your students aware and engaged during the pandemic is to help them understand the basics – putting the current situation into perspective.
Take a look at our Pop Quiz and Pop Practicals for a fun and educational way to learn about germs and viruses, and keep children safe too…

1. Pop Quiz!

Question: What are the 4 types of germs?
Answers: Bacteria, Viruses, Fungi and Protozoa.
“What is bacteria?” → There are tiny, one-celled creatures that survive by feeding on the nutrients in their local environment – including the human body. When bacteria reproduces inside the human body, it can cause infections, such as ear infections and pneumonia. However, some bacteria are good for maintaining a healthy body. This type of bacteria can be found in our intestines which enables our bodies to retrieve nutrients we need from the food we eat… and get rid of the rest in the form of waste. Scientists also use bacteria to create vaccines and medicine.
“What are viruses?” → Unlike bacteria, which can reproduce inside or outside the human body, viruses need to be inside living cells so they can grow – they can’t survive long outside a host (a human, animal or plant). This means that viruses spread when they’re inside a host, which can make the host sick with a range of diseases, like chickenpox or the flu.
“What is fungi?” → These are multi-celled, plant-like organisms. Most plants survive by creating food from photosynthesis, however; fungi get its nutrients from other plants, animals and humans, and thrive in warm and damp habitats. Most fungi aren’t as dangerous to humans if they are very healthy.
“What is protozoa?” → Like bacteria, protozoa are one-cell organisms and, like fungi, protozoa live in places with a lot of moisture. As a result, this organism can spread through water, contaminating it comes into contact with animals and humans. When this happens, protozoa can cause diarrhoea, nausea and stomach pain.

Extra: Facts about viruses

– Viruses can’t be cured by antibiotics in the same way as bacteria.
– Viruses can be round, spherical or rod-shaped under the microscope.
– Viruses are made up of nucleic acid surrounded by protein.
– Viruses copy themselves to grow, spread and infect other cells, which are called virions.
– Viruses can live in one-cell organisms, like bacteria.
– Viruses are easy to contract because they are the smallest germ.
– Viruses can be spread by insects bites, like mosquitoes, or through bodily fluid.

2. Pop Practicals!

Here are two Pop Practical ideas that your students can easily create at home to learn how to stay safe.

Pop Practical #1: Create your own hand sanitizer

What you’ll need:
– 99% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
– 100% aloe vera gel
– Essential oils (optional)
How to make it:
1. Put 160ml of isopropyl alcohol into a bowl
2. Add 80ml of the aloe vera gel to the bowl
3. Mix the isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel together
4. Add a few drops of essential oils, such as peppermint or tea tree, for a cool and refreshing scent if you wish
5. Pour inside a bottle, such as a dispenser with a pump, a plant mister or a small travel sized bottle for liquids

Pop Practical #2: Take the handwash test

What you’ll need:
– Bowl of water
– Ground pepper
– Soap
How to make it:
1. Add a few shakes of ground pepper to the top of the water. (The pepper will act as the germs, while the water is the surface of the skin).
2. Then, place a fingertip into the bowl of water with the pepper. The pepper will stick to your hand to simulate what happens when germs stick to the surface of unclean hands.
3. Next, wash your hands and coat a fingertip with soap.
4. Put the fingertip with the soap into the water amongst the pepper. You should see the pepper spread out across the water, which mimics how soap breaks down the virus.
Get your class to take photos or video their Pop Practicals so you can share them on your school’s website, social media channel or include in your next digital newsletter to spread the word!
To understand more, help bridge education gaps and to make remote learning as fun as possible, we want to support teachers (and parents too!) with Empiribox @ Home. This includes access to a vast library of KS1 and KS2 curriculum-aligned science resources for students – including interactive videos, worksheets, quizzes, adapted hands-on experiments and more! – all while they learn from home or back in the classroom.
Discover more visit Empiribox @ Home here.
From all of us at Empiribox, we hope this helps teachers, students and parents to stay safe and engaged during these unique times.