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Career Academy hand washing

Sioux City Community School District Career Academy student Lizeth Martinez watches Perry Creek Elementary School students wash their hands while teaching a lesson about the importance of using proper hand-washing technique Dec. 4 at the Sioux City school. Career Academy students designed and wrote the educational program they presented to the students.

SIOUX CITY -- When one of his classmates handed Josue Gutierrez a red ball printed with superheroes, a substance that couldn't be seen with the naked eye transferred to his palms and the backs of his fingertips. 

"Whoa, It's glowing! My hands are glowing!" the 8-year-old exclaimed as Ginny Tran scanned his hands with a black light.

Tran, a student enrolled in the Sioux City Community School District's Career Academy health science pathway, assured that the illuminated spots on Gutierrez's hands and the hands of the other children in Rochelle Sitzman's third-grade class at Perry Creek Elementary School weren't actual germs, but soap residue meant to illustrate how viruses, including influenza, spread.

The experiment followed a reading of "Peppa Pig Gets Sick," a story Tran, Lizeth Martinez and Isabelle Lopez, all West High School sophomores, created to help elementary students stay healthy. Characters other Career Academy students used to engage young students in their presentations included a fluffy bunny and a menacing-looking "Big, Bad, Germ."

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Career Academy hand washing

Sioux City Community School District Career Academy student Ginny Tran, a West High School sophomore, uses an ultraviolet light to display simulated germs on a student's hands at Perry Creek Elementary School in Sioux City Dec. 4.

With flu season expected to ramp up after the holidays, Sitzman said this was the "perfect time" for her students to be reminded about something they learned way back in preschool: how to properly wash their hands.

"I loved the way they presented it," she said. "The children were engaged; and it relates to the children."

The district's growing Career Academy allows high school students to take specialty courses in 30 so-called pathways, covering business and marketing, family and consumer science, health science, and industrial technology. According to the district, more than 1,700 students were enrolled in Career Academy courses for the 2017-2018 school year.

Career Academy instructor Malina Ard said disease is a topic that is discussed in all health science pathway courses.

"We talked about plagues and epidemics in history and then in English one of their units is to write creatively, so I thought we could write a children's story that teaches how to stop the spread of disease," explained Ard, who said a unit is also devoted to proper hand-washing. "We kind of combined it all together and came up with a unit that we could come out and teach the elementary students."

Tran said her group chose Peppa Pig, a popular British cartoon pig, for their story, because some of their younger siblings are fans of the TV show, which airs on Nick Jr.

Lopez, who illustrated the story, said when the three students began the project back in August, she was surprised to learn how fast viruses can spread.

"If one person could get sick, it could affect the whole community and make everyone get sick," she said.

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Career Academy hand washing

Sioux City Community School District Career Academy student Lizeth Martinez watches Perry Creek Elementary School students wash their hands while teaching a lesson about the importance of using proper hand-washing technique Dec. 4 at the Sioux City school. Career Academy students designed and wrote the educational program they presented to the students.

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of disease, which is highlighted in "Peppa Pig Gets Sick," is hand-washing before eating and after touching surfaces that could be contaminated with germs, such as playground equipment. At the sink in Sitzman's classroom, Martinez told students to be sure to thoroughly scrub between their fingers and underneath their nails with soap.

"Then you're going to rise that off with the warm water and sing your ABCs," she instructed.

Amari Tillman, 8, said she didn't learn anything new about hand-washing, but admitted she doesn't always sing her ABCs. She described the black light portion of the presentation as "cool" and said she really enjoyed the Peppa Pig story.

"I liked that when she got sick, she went to the doctor and she got medicine," she said.

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Health and Lifestyles reporter

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