Schools need to be safe spaces for kids to grow in. The classroom is where children develop social connections, as well as learn valuable lessons. Without a doubt, teachers have their hands full with trying to ensure every student understands the school curriculum, on top of having their emotional needs met inside their classroom.
Because every child is different, teachers must pay close attention to their students throughout the school day. For example, calling on one child to solve a question in front of the classroom can make their day – they can feel like the center of attention like they can showcase their abilities in front of their peers, and all in all, spark the joy of studying deep within their hearts. Another child, however, may perceive this as a threat to their social status – it can make them feel as if they are scrutinized and judged by their peers.
This is just the tip of what teachers have to think through in the middle of conducting a lesson – who to call on? Who could use the attention? If someone doesn’t understand the material at the same speed as the rest of the class, how can I help them get more involved without making them feel bad? So many questions.
Issues like these are addressed by schools everywhere in a variety of ways. For example, teacher aides can help struggling students with studying. This is also part of the reason guidance counselors work within schools, to help teachers and students alike maintain a good school environment where children can thrive. The education system as a whole has a list of resources available to schools, teachers, and students to help ensure every child’s needs are met.
However, emotional and educational needs are not the only things schools have been addressing in the last few years. In recent years, infrastructure within schools has been widely discussed as a promoter of good health and a pleasant school environment. State-of-the-art schools boast transparent classroom walls to signify the loss of barriers, comfort rooms have been set up in schools all across the country, playgrounds on school property have taken a turn towards safety. All wonderful, admirable changes. The way schools treat hygiene has also been changing, step by step, to allow students to lead safe school-lives.
Different studies discussing student health and academic success have been conducted at full-speed to better education systems all across the globe. The paper, “The effect of hand-hygiene interventions on infectious disease-associated absenteeism in elementary schools” found a reduction of up to 57.1% in absenteeism rates following hand-hygiene interventions in schools. Other researchers have found similar results. Reducing over half of missed school-days by children allows them to focus on their academic careers, as well as spend this time building the social-connections they need to.
Handwashing education in schools is normal – and great!
Schools are considered “social agents” by many sociologists. This means that they prepare the child to live in society. They teach them to postpone instant gratification by attending classes, how to follow school rules, and even sharing games at recess with the other children has a great impact on the child’s sense of how to function in society. Schools inadvertently teach children what is “normal” inside our society.
In that sense, schools have an incredible amount of power over shaping our children’s habits and awareness of their surroundings. Hand hygiene inside schools is no different – a habit, an awareness of what happens on and to our hands throughout the day.
Schools must implement the importance of hand hygiene as early on as they can. Not only does it reduce absenteeism, allowing kids to better their academic careers, but good hand hygiene actually keeps them safe, which is a top priority for schools.
Making sure surfaces inside the school are sanitized and cleaned properly is important, but it cannot be solely relied upon. If a child comes to school sick, as often happens, they can spread germs to many previously sanitized surfaces during the school-day where inevitably other children will contract them. Providing the correct infrastructure to support hand hygiene inside schools is vital to fighting infections. Schools can teach children about the reasons we wash our hands and implement good hand hygiene practice inside the school curriculum in a variety of ways.
As soon as possible. Kids need to wash their hands often because their bodies are especially susceptible to germs, having yet developed a fully functioning immune system.
Some schools prefer to remind children before lunch break to wash their hands before and after eating. Other schools prefer to have teachers greet kids at the doorway and ask if they have washed their hands before returning to the classroom after recess. Many schools prefer to have an annual handwashing awareness day where teachers explain the importance of washing your hands not only by lectures but by utilizing captivating hygiene-related lesson plans and activities.
Soapy’s solution – the CleanMachine
Children, especially young children, learn a lot through play. This is part of the reason Soapy’s solution, the CleanMachine, is so suited for schools. The personal handwash station utilizes motion sensors to track hand movements while washing, as the interactive screen shows the user what motions to practice. At the end of the wash cycle, each user gets a real-time report of their performance, turning handwashing with the machine into a game of scoring “higher” than before. By gamifying handwashing, children can now check themselves and try again and again until they get it right.
The smart handwashing machine dispenses the exact amount of soap and warm water needed, which is not only extremely ecological, but pleasant for children who are otherwise reluctant to wash their hands: the water feels nice all year round, and no cross-contamination could occur while touching the soap dispenser or water faucet.
In fact, handwashing doesn’t have to take place in the “icky” school bathrooms anymore. With the CleanMachine, handwashing can take place in clean environments that are much more pleasant for kids and school-staff members alike.
After all, handwashing is not only something we do after going to the bathroom. We want to teach children to wash their hands before eating, after touching high-touch surfaces such as playground equipment, after petting animals, and more. Limiting handwashing to bathrooms is a fault that lies with us, the adults.
Studies have previously noted that adults encourage kids to wash their hands after contracting “dirty” diseases with symptoms like diarrhea, but not as much when contracting other “invisible” symptoms like a sore throat. In most cases, both illnesses are hand-borne and equally infectious. This practice is believed to stem from the belief that if we can see it, see our hand covered with mud or grime, then it is physically dirtier than the invisible germs that cover it – which is wrong, of course. Just because we can’t see the germs does not mean our hands are clean.
The CleanMachine ensures a thorough wash cycle every single time and is suited for busy school settings. Finally, kids can wash their hands quickly without compromising efficiency. How do we know it doesn’t sacrifice the thoroughness of the wash? Just check the real-time results tracking your hand movements for optimal lathering and washing.
Using an ecological solution to the hand hygiene problem inside schools is a great way to have a live example of conserving resources and treating our earth with respect. The CleanMachine uses up one glass of water per wash, instead of the usual half a gallon (about 2 Liters) used in each wash. It also heats the water individually for every wash so that no electricity goes to waste. By dispensing the exact amount of soap or hand-sanitizer, the CleanMachine can save up to 60% of reagents. The CleanMachine can be adapted to each school’s needs, adjusting the washing cycle speed, water and soap amounts, and other customizable features.
Schools can choose to make use of the CleanMachine’s facial recognition feature in a way that recognizes students only by their class, enabling them to understand which classes are washing their hands as well and as often as they should and which classes need an extra reminder of the how’s and why’s. This feature is GDPR compliant and saves no digital images, and can also be chosen to be turned off completely in line with the school’s wishes.
Indeed, infection prevention in schools is a field not discussed as often as it should be, but the CleanMachine’s hand hygiene data can help schools create a better infection-prevention plan. This data is transferred to the Soapy Wisdom platform, a secure platform that only authorized personnel can enter, where it is translated into graphs and reports that allow easy creation of actionable items.
Soapy provides a lesson plan suited for different ages which covers the topic of hand hygiene, from its history (shout out to Semmelweis!) to the science behind it. In Ron-Arad high school in Rehovot, Israel, Soapy has led to a 200% rise in wash compliance rates. We can do the same for you. If you want to learn more about our services, you can contact us here!