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Hands-on Science Activities to Teach Children About the COVID-19 Pandemic

The social lockdown due to the outbreak of the coronavirus has made it difficult for students to assemble. Several social gatherings have also been banned in a bid to contain the viral outbreak. 

 

Schools are longer meeting physically, national exams have been postponed and some institutions have transitioned to online classes. For the schools without the capacity to transition to online classes, this means that students are at home and probably unoccupied during this period. 

 

This imposed isolation should not necessarily be a burden, you, as a parent can still make it work. Just because school is no longer in session, doesn't mean your child has to stop learning. There are some science activities that your children can engage in during this lockdown period.

 

It is also imperative to help your children understand what is going on in the world today concerning the COVID-19 pandemic; why it is affecting everything and what part they can play to curb the spread of the disease.

Based on that, we have curated a few science activities that can help your children learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic while having fun with the activities. 

The Yam Activity

This is a very simple experiment to show children how germs are formed, where they can be found and how they can protect themselves from disease-causing germs (including viruses like COVID-19).

 

Please note that this experiment must be performed under the guidance of an adult and it takes about a week to complete.

Image credit - Google

Items needed

  • A raw piece of yam

  • 3 rubber bags (transparent)

  • Marker

  • Knife

  • Masking tape

Instructions

Peel and cut the yam into 3 equal pieces (ensure that your hands have been previously washed). Take a piece and place it in one of the rubber bags. Seal the bag with masking tape. Use the masking tape and marker to label the bag as control. Have the children touch the second piece all over with their bare hands. Place that piece in the second bag, seal and label it as ‘unwashed’. Have the children wash their hands, then touch the last piece with their washed hands. Place the third piece in the third bag and label it as ‘washed’.

Take all three bags and place them in a dark cupboard at room temperature. Leave them there for a week. After a week, pull the bags out and look at the yam pieces, but don’t take the yam pieces out of the bag. What do you see on the yam pieces?

Have the children point out to you which yam has the most mold growing on it? Which yam has the least? Why do they think that is?

Explanation

Explain to the children that what they see on the yam pieces are germs. The number of germs on the pieces have grown so much that you can now see them without a microscope. The yam piece handled with unwashed hands probably had the most germs on them. Explain to them that the yam has more germs because it picked more germs from the unwashed hands and the germs began to grow more than the germs on the control yam and the washed yam.

Help to understand that germs (viruses) can spread through unwashed hands but washing their hands properly and frequently will help to prevent the spread of these germs.

The Glitter Activity

Use this experiment to show how germs are spread around from one person to another, or from person to objects and vice versa.

This activity can be done outdoors to prevent having glitter all over your house.

Image credit - YaWD

Items needed

  • Glitter

  • Body lotion

  • Soap

  • Water

  • Paper towels

Instructions

Have the children rub both hands with body lotion. Apply glitter on one palm. Have them press both palms together and take note of what they see. Have them touch other parts of their body like their face and knees, or shake hands with another person’s hand (who doesn’t have the glitter) or touch other surfaces like doorknobs or tabletops. Get a paper towel and ask them to wipe their hands. Did the glitter come off? Then ask them to wash their hands with soap and water (you can sing along as you do this for 20 seconds). Did all the glitter come off?

Explanation 

You can explain to them that the way glitter is easily spread to other surfaces, that is the same way germs can be spread around us. Cleaning hands with just paper towels did not remove all the glitter but it came off when they washed their hands with soap and water.

This is the same way, just cleaning hands with paper towels will not get rid of germs but washing hands properly with soap and water will get the germs off their hands. 

Make them understand that germs travel the same way and can easily enter the body if they touch their faces with dirty hands, which can make them sick.

That’s why they must wash their hands before eating. Let them know it is also important to wash their hands after touching something that might have germs, such as when they use the bathroom or play outside.

If they don’t wash their hands, the germs can easily spread to more places and to other people and cause sickness.

Map the COVID-19 Spread Activity

Use this activity to teach your children geography. Print out a large map of the world and have them point out and colour different cities of the world affected by the COVID-19. For older children, you can have them research and write the statistics of the spread of the disease for each city/country.

Image credit - YaWD

The Sneeze travel Activity

Use this experiment to show your children how far a sneeze can travel and why it is important to always cover the nose when they sneeze.

Image credit - YaWD

Items needed

  • Food colouring

  • Water

  • Spray bottle

  • Tissue paper

Instructions

Mix the food colouring with water and pour into a spray bottle. Pretend that the coloured water is a sneeze. Spray it on a blank tissue paper and observe as it spreads.

Explain to your children how far and wide the coloured water reaches, that’s the same way germs spread across.

How Germs Scatter Activity

Use this experiment to show your children how soap ‘fights’ germs.

Image credit - YaWD

Items needed

  • Powdered pepper

  • Water

  • A bowl

  • Soap

Instructions

Put water in a bowl. Pour some pepper into the bowl of water which represents germs. Put soap on your child’s finger. Have your child put the finger in the water. The pepper quickly scatters to the sides.

Explanation

Make them understand that a germ’s biggest enemy is soap and water. And the pepper ‘running’ to the sides of the bowl, that’s how germs run away from soap and water. 

These activities will help to provide some fun for your children during this isolation period while teaching them about the coronavirus pandemic and why constant washing of hands will help to battle the spread of COVID-19.

Author: Nancy Ewurum

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