Investigating Germs

In science, we have started discussing the human body. This is one of my favorite units to talk about with my kids. There are so many fun and exciting experiments the kids can do while learning about what is going on inside of them. It is cold season right now in my classroom. I wish I could say I made it through without catching anything but I didn't. I was try to explain the importance of keeping hands out of our mouth and how we pass along germs to each other. When I catch a student chewing on their fingers, I try to remind them just how many germs are actually on their fingers during the day. I don't think they truly believed me, hence the germ experiment.

We began by reading two books: The Magic School Bus: Fights Germs and The Fungus That Ate My School. Both are fantastic reads that I picked up at the Goodwill for a fraction of the cost. We discussed how germs are transported from place to place by people and how our body fights them off.

{Click here to see this book on Amazon}

The morning of the experiment, I cut up several large potatoes. These were on their way out to my chicken coop because they had begun to sprout so I did not use fresh potatoes. I placed each one in a Ziploc baggie and we chose several locations in the room and around the building we thought would be the biggest location for germs. I rubbed the potato on the location and we let our potato hosts sit for about 2 weeks. The students did a compare and contrast to what the potatoes looked like at the beginning and the end of the experiment. I think they began to understand that there really are germs everywhere when we started to see pink fungus growing! This was so much fun and such an easy, cheap experiment that took very little time at all! These are the locations the students chose as germ hot spots:

  • student desk
  • classroom floor
  • hall doorknob
  • water fountain
  • hallway railing
  • classroom cubby
  • student chair
  • student hand
  • classroom doorknob
  • classroom wall
  • bathroom sink
  • clean sample (This is the most important one to remember so you have a comparison for the students to see what no germs growing on a host should look like.)

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This is the anchor chart we used to record our data from our experiment.

We left the samples sitting on our counter and we anxiously waited nearly 2 weeks before we saw any serious growth. I am not sure if the subzero temperatures we have been experiencing slowed down the process. It would be interesting to this experiment in the spring or end of the school year when there is more sunlight and rooms are warmer.

The students concluded that the hall doorknob, water fountain, bathroom sink, and a student's hand were the largest hot spots for germ growth. We labeled our anchor chart with a germ scale of 1-3. 1 being slight germ growth. 2 being moderate germ growth. 3 being countless germ growth. We have been talking about text features and resources so I had the students pull out a thesaurus and we used words to replace small, medium, and large. I definitely look forward to doing this with a future class. I think it was a great visual to show the students germs without needing any fancy or expensive equipment.

A CANDY Heart Experiment

(This post was supposed to be up last week but thanks to the lovely sub-zero temperatures and other projects it didn't get the attention it deserved until this morning!)

Valentine's Day is not officially here but it is in Room 238. We have been talking about our candy heart experiment for a week now and the kids were thrilled. I wanted to plan something fun and hands on for our Valentine's Day that would not involve them eating sugar or getting too wound up. Science experiments are a fantastic learning opportunity and usually are very cheap or involve items you already own!

I had them all gather around the table and had my ingredients hidden inside my picnic basket. At first, they thought we were going on a picnic. Much to their dismay, I explained it was snowing and there was no way we were partying outside!

Now, what was inside my picnic basket you ask? Well...just a few household ingredients was all I needed to grab out of my pantry this morning.

  • Conversation Hearts (I bought a pack of 5 Brach from Wal-Mart but any brand will do)
  • Plastic Cups (I used clear so they could see what was happening)
  • Light Corn Syrup (mine was from Aldi)
  • Honey (also from Aldi)
  • Maple Syrup (I think this was from Wal-Mart)
  • Lemonade Mix (any mix would do, I didn't think to grab a can of pop)
  • Hot water (right from the tap)
  • Cold water (right from the tap)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (I really wanted distilled vinegar but alas I was out!)
  • Sugar (we added it to water)
  • Salt (iodized salt added to water)
  • Index cards (I used pink for Valentine's Day to label each experiment.)
These were all of the conversation hearts that I had but there were still many left over. I think 1-2 boxes would do the job.

Before we dropped the candy into the cup, we would make predictions on what we thought would happen. After each experiment, we sat and watched each cup for a minute or so before beginning the next. We left the cups alone for about an hour while we passed out treats and then returned to see what happened. Many of the students were surprised with the results.

Cold water BEFORE
AFTER...the cold water did eventually leave a sugar ring at the surface of the water.
Apple Cider Vinegar BEFORE
AFTER...the apple cider vinegar was the only mixture to COMPLETELY dissolve the candy.
Light corn syrup BEFORE
AFTER...this was the only mixture that really did not show a change. Although we could turn the cup upside down and nothing really moved. Hmm, not sure I want to bake with this anytime soon!!!
Table salt BEFORE
AFTER...we combined cold water with our table salt and we saw the solution begin to dissolve the candy and leave a heart ring at the surface of the water.
Lemonade Mix BEFORE
AFTER...this was the most difficult to see because the mix turned the water yellow and made the water cloudy and difficult to observe. It did, however, begin to dissolve the candy.
How water BEFORE
AFTER...the hot water did dissolve the candy faster than the cold water.
AFTER...all of the kids thought the sugar water would make the candy more sugary. While that may be true, the sugar water did dissolve the candy and leave a sugar ring at the surface of the water.
Maple syrup BEFORE
AFTER...surprisingly the maple syrup did dissolve the candy.

The students were SO tempted to touch the cups. But I make a rule that just like an operating table, they are only allowed to look and not touch:) Eliminates any accidents.

AFTER...the honey did dissolve the candy hearts after a while.


These are just items I chose for our experiment. I think just about anything would work here! I would love to hear what you have done with your classroom!

Duquesne University & Katy's Kids

This morning we had an amazing opportunity thanks to the Katy's Kids Program with pharmaceutical students from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Katy's Kids is a program that focuses on the importance of medical safety. Many young children find it difficult to differentiate the difference between medicine and candy.

They explained the importance of taking their own medicine, taking the correct dosage, and taking medicine with an adult. The students were able to go into 3 stations and practice different activities.

The first station, they were able to shake out "medicine" (plastic beads) and use a counter and place the medicine into bottles.

Thank goodness we are really good at counting our base ten blocks!!

The second station, they were able to crush chewable pills into a powder (Smarties).

This was by far the messiest station! Powder was flying!!
The third station, they were able to practice listening with a stethoscope and wear a lab coat. (This was the all time favorite station!)
Trying on the lab coat and listening through the stethoscope.

Fred was so patient with the students listening for a heartbeat.

Some of our very own future "doctors"!

Key Points from the lesson:
  • Keep medicine in a safe location from children.
  • Keep medicine in a child proof container.
  • Explain the difference between medicine and candy. Medicine is NOT candy.
  • Remind children medicine is not for playing.
  • Medicine can be dangerous if not taken properly.
  • Take the proper amount of medicine.
  • If you ever have questions, contact the pharmacist. They are there to help you!! :)
We are so appreciative for their visit and would love to have them come back and visit again! To quote one student, "This is the best day ever!"