Monday, March 7, 2011

You Make Me Sick!

Every November, I start steeling myself for the onset of virus season. Since most of the students in our school district elect to receive flu shots, the number of flu cases in our schools is very manageable and the symptoms are fairly benign. The dreaded norovirus, however, is a different story. While many people refer to it as “the stomach flu,” norovirus is actually an RNA virus that causes acute vomiting and diarrhea and is responsible for about 90% of all epidemic non-bacterial outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness in the world. It’s highly contagious, and spreads from person to person through touching contaminated surfaces or through ingesting contaminated food or water. I’ve had the amazing luck to have all three of my children stricken nearly each year, usually all at the same time, in the middle of the night, while my husband is away on business travel. I know – try to restrain your jealousy. The virus sweeps through the school system faster than cranky postings on Formspring.

I once read that the February vacation that is observed in most U.S. public schools originated as an attempt to break the cycle of illness that generally strikes schools in winter. Whether the vacation actually has any effect on containing outbreaks of illness in students, I have no idea. The thing about norovirus, though, is that it is nearly always completely preventable. The major cause of the virus (and others) is a lack of proper hygiene, specifically inadequate handwashing. We all know that any public building, such as schools, can act as ideal breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. The chances of students contracting a virus increases as they become more mobile throughout the school. Changing classrooms, sharing desks, eating in the cafeteria, riding on the bus – all of these activities greatly contribute to students’ exposure to possible contamination. So, short of obsessively disinfecting all surfaces every hour, what can educators do to help limit the exposure to potentially harmful bacteria and viruses? Simple: remind and reinforce at every opportunity those handwashing lessons that most kids (should have) learned in kindergarten.

My picks this week all focus on bacteria and viruses (“germs”) – what they are, how they spread, and how they can be contained and eliminated. Throughout the week we’ll be featuring additional resources on our Facebook and Twitter pages, including the implications of bioterrorism, hands-on experiments with germs, the benefits of certain microorganisms, and much more. In the meantime, wash those hands!

Germ Busters!
Subjects: Health, Biology
Grade: PreK-5
Students create podcasts to apply their knowledge of germs, how germs are spread, and how resulting sickness can be prevented. The podcasts may then be used to teach students in the rest of the school about germs and their prevention. This lesson was produced by Digital Wish, a non-profit that seeks to modernize K-12 classrooms and prepare students for tomorrow's workforce. On the Digital Wish web site, teachers can create wish lists of technology products for their classroom. Donors then connect with their favorite schools and grant classroom wishes through online cash or product donations.

The History of Germ Theory – Grade 12
Subjects: Biology, Health, World history
Grade: 12
In this lesson students will learn the history of germ theory, from the 1600s to the present day. They will examine how germ theory developed and test antibacterial wipes for their "germ killing" properties. This lesson helps students learn the content of the indicators and benchmarks by weaving the history of germ theory with scientific inquiry as they "do" science and look at it through the eyes of scientists instrumental in the development of germ theory. This lesson is a product of the Ohio State Department of Education, and is aligned to Ohio state education standards.

Microbes: Too Smart for Antibiotics?
Subjects: Biology, Health
Grade: 6-12
In this lesson, students learn about how bacteria (germs) are spread, the benefits of microorganisms, and the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This lesson includes two handouts - one for grades 6-12, the other suitable for grades 9-12 (advanced or AP classes). This lesson was produced by Action Bioscience, an educational site created to promote bioscience literacy by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Resources on the site include peer-reviewed articles and lesson plans. This lesson is aligned to national science education standards.

~Joann's Picks - 3/3/2011~

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