Copperas Cove High students learn effects of handwashing in pandemic

Special to Leader-Press 

 

In the midst of a pandemic when Copperas Cove ISD students are required to wash or sanitize their hands every two hours, Copperas Cove High School students in chemistry teacher Misty Thomas’ class learned about the Scientific Method, utilizing the importance of hand washing as their research problem. 

Students gathered information about washing their hands and then created a hypothesis about the amount of germs on their hands before and after washing. Students gathered data by checking for germs under a black light after applying Glo Germ, an odorless lotion or powder that glows brightly when exposed to ultraviolet light. Finally, students make the connection between hand washing and the real world, especially now during COVID-19.

“I utilize the Healthy Hands Lab to introduce students to the scientific method,” Thomas said. “Because no matter what careers students choose, they can see how the scientific method can be used to solve any problem.”

The students are shocked and disgusted by the areas of their hands covered in germs. 

“I love when the students then pose the question, ‘What about using hand sanitizer? Does that make a difference?’ I allow them to alter their investigations and see the effects of hand sanitizer versus handwashing. They are amazed because they did not realize that germs are still on their hands even after using the hand sanitizer,” Thomas said. “Then, students wash their hands with the procedures they wrote in their reports and then go back to the black light and look to see how many germs remain. Students then reflect on their handwashing methods. The conclusion of the labs requires students to reflect on the world-wide effects of not properly washing their hands.” 

The laboratory investigation also provides opportunities for collaborative learning by students with their lab teams. The lesson also allows students to take risks and ask questions without fear of failure. They get to use a common skill, washing hands, to explore the Scientific Method.

Student Michala Milllican learned that there are more germs living on her hands than she originally thought. 

“I like that we were able to have hands-on experience instead of watching a video over the same topic,” Millican said. “I would love to do the lab to make it where we check the everyday things we use for germs to see how exposed we actually are.”

As a Chemistry teacher, Thomas wants students to see that science is all around them and everyone can learn from scientific principles. 

“Many students enter my class with the misconception that Chemistry is just for ‘smart kids’ and leave my classroom understanding that Chemistry is for all students.”

Thomas is the 2020 Region 12 Secondary Teacher of the Year. 

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