Senior nursing student teaches importance of hand washing to kids

Time to wash up: Senior Nursing major, Marissa Schardein, knows just how quickly germs can spread among children. She then built an exercise and employed it in Community Action Early Head Start classrooms with the intent on teaching kids about the importance of hand washing and its correlation to illness.

“I started with asking the kids ‘why should you wash your hands?’” said Marissa Schardein, senior nursing major. “The ‘why’ is an important part that many kids, many people don’t think about.”

There have been many scholarly medical journals that have proven that consistent and steady handwashing helps to prevent illness.

Schardein began to ask herself “are they [the children] deciding to wash their hands on their own?”

She says this is the biggest question when considering young children, as the answer leads to an act of habitual behavior, are they washing or not.

Community Action’s Early Head Start program allowed Schardein the opportunity to establish and implement an exercise for her senior capstone project, in a classroom setting, that would answer the begging question: are kids thinking about washing their hands and do they know why it is so important?

According to Schardein, she employed an exercise where kids would toss around a ball that was covered with glitter. She split the kids among two different groups and had them toss one ball covered in blue glitter and another in green glitter. After a couple of minutes of fun, she asked the all-important question.

“How many of you all have both blue and green glitter on your hands?” Just about everyone replied with a loud and proud, “I do!”

“The problem is getting them to realize what I was trying to get across to them,” said Schardein. “The kids didn’t get it at first… but I had to persist and ask them ‘why am I doing this?’ and eventually we got to the answer that ‘yes! toys have germs.’”

It was then that the nursing scholar was at her best; realizing that she could now begin to employ proper handwashing techniques on the kids.

“I went with a song technique where the kids would sing a short song while washing their hands,” said Schardein. “This taught them persistence and the proper length to wash your hands. This is all about the self-recognition process of realizing when it is time to wash your hands but, not only that, also knowing why it is important to your health.

The Early Head Start exercise was a requirement of the nursing program’s curriculum that Schardein compiled and established on her own.

“I plan on getting into pediatric nursing,” said Schardein. “You’re always educating and that’s a big part of nursing.”